Friday, 6 December 2019

Mijatović: Treatment of Migrants by Croatian Police Is Unacceptable

ZAGREB, December 6, 2019 - Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović on Friday criticised the treatment by Croatian police of illegal migrants coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on Bosnian authorities to treat migrants more responsibly and to urgently close down the Vučjak camp outside the northwestern town of Bihać.

Mijatović has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina this week to see for herself the scale of the problem of illegal migration, visiting all refugee camps in the country. Addressing an end-of-visit press conference in Sarajevo on Friday, she explicitly condemned the conduct of Croatian border police as unacceptable, particularly their practice of pushing migrants back over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina.

She said that many doctors had given her "consistent statements" about violence being used by Croatian police. She added that there was a disturbingly large number of testimonies of violence against and abuse of migrants and of migrants being robbed of their property.

Mijatović said that the practice of pushbacks used by Croatian border police was a violation of the human rights convention, including the right to asylum and prohibition of torture.

She said she had requested an explanation from Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in October 2018, but the situation had only worsened since then. I am mentioning this again because nothing has changed, she underlined.

Mijatović called for an independent investigation into police abuses to identify the perpetrators and bring them to account. She said she would continue closely monitoring the illegal migration situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region and act at the European level.

Whether that will bring about change is a matter of political will and not resources. The migrants I have met asked me to be their voice, Mijatović said.

Mijatović, herself from Bosnia and Hezegovina, has visited the migrant centres in the country this week and called for the Vučjak camp near Bihac to be immediately closed down because of inhumane conditions.

She said she was shocked by what she had seen in Vučjak. Human beings, including minors, cramped in mud at a former waste disposal site next to minefields, she added.

Mijatović said she expected the camp to be closed down very soon because there were not many people there, about 500 to 600, and appropriate accommodation should be found for them. She added that she had received guarantees from Security Minister Dragan Mektić that this would happen soon.

Mektić later said that the Vučjak camp would be dismantled by the end of next week, and the people staying there would be transferred to other camps.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Interior Ministry Doesn't Know How Nigerians Ended up in Bosnia

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - The Interior Ministry on Tuesday responded to a news item about the illegal deportation of two Nigerian students to Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying Croatian police did not have their legal departure from Croatia on record and that they did not know how they ended up in BiH.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, both 18, have told Bosnian website Žurnal that Croatian police deported them to BiH, treating them as illegal migrants despite the fact that they arrived in Croatia with valid visas.

The police told Hina that five Nigerian citizens - four students and their supervisor - legally entered Croatia on November 12 and took part in a sporting tournament in Istria County, and that the supervisor and one of the participants in the tournament legally left Croatia via Zagreb's airport, while one applied for asylum in Croatia.

The two Nigerian citizens mentioned in the media checked into a Zagreb hostel on November 16, checking out on the 18th, settling their debts, taking their things and documents, and going in an unknown direction, ministry spokeswoman Marina Mandić said.

The police have no record of their legal departure from the country so they cannot say how they ended up in BiH, she added.

She said the police were checking if this was yet another attempt by foreign citizens to abuse attending a sporting tournament in Croatia.

The fifth Nigerian citizen arrived at a Zagreb police station on November 18, saying he lost his passport, and was given a decision to leave the country, Mandić said. However, she added, he came back to the station on the 27th and said he wanted to apply for asylum, and he is now at the Porin reception centre for asylum seekers.

Mandić said that in the meantime that person tried to enter Slovenia "but was sent back."

The students from Federal University of Technology Owerri arrived in Zagreb from Nigeria to participate in the World InterUniversities Championships in Pula. After competing in the table tennis tournament, they left for Zagreb from where they were to have flown to Lagos via Istanbul on November 18,.

Alexandro and Chinedu are now in Velika Kladuša's Miral camp as illegal migrants. They told Žurnal that police officers had put them in a van, took them to the BiH border where, together with several other persons, probably illegal migrants, they chased them away to BiH.

More news on the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Minister Says Croatian Police Commended for Protecting EU's External Border

ZAGREB, December 3, 2019 - Croatian police have been commended in the EU for protecting the EU's external border, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Monday in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

"EU ministers of the interior know best how to assess the role of the Croatian police, who at the moment are irreplaceable in the EU," Božinović said, adding that he had a lot of meetings with his colleagues.

"There is a consensus on the issue of protection of the external border. Everything that needs to be done with regard to the common asylum policy and legislative changes in that area actually depends on whether we have secure external borders, that is the precondition, and what Croatia and several other countries represent at the moment is the EU's security," Božinović said.

He said that on Tuesday he would meet with the EC Vice-President for Migration, Margaritis Schinas, and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Asked to comment on criticism regarding excessive use of force by Croatian police and two cases when migrants were shot at and wounded, Božinović said that nobody had even mentioned it.

"Nobody mentioned the two cases. Right after it happened, we took the necessary activities, the prosecutorial authorities have been involved, and I contacted my colleagues in Europe right away. Everything should be done to prevent incidents but, I repeat, Croatian police act in line with national and European legislation, they are recognised in the EU and we will continue pursuing our policy," said Božinović.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Illegal Migrant Shot and Wounded While Resisting Arrest

ZAGREB, November 28, 2019 - An illegal migrant was shot and wounded while resisting a police officer in the wider Mrkopalj area of western Croatia on Wednesday, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County police said in a statement on Thursday.

The man suffered a gunshot wound to the right shoulder and was admitted to the KBC hospital in the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka on Wednesday evening. His condition is stable and his life is not in danger, the hospital said.

The incident occurred after police encountered a group of migrants in the wider Mrkopalj area. One of the migrants resisted arrest and in the process caused a police officer's gun to fire. The man was immediately administered first aid and was taken to hospital, according to the police statement.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Border Police Equipped with 17 New Vehicles with Thermal Vision Cameras

ZAGREB, November 26, 2019 - Croatia's border police on Tuesday received 17 vehicles with thermal imaging cameras for border surveillance and this highly sophisticated equipment can cover distances of up to five kilometres.

During a ceremony in Zagreb to receive the equipment, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that the equipment was produced by the Croatian company Ericsson Nikola Tesla and a few other local companies.

This innovative Croatian solution has already been commended by the European Commission, the minister said adding that he hopes that some other countries will express interest in purchasing this equipment.

These self-sufficient systems are placed on vehicle trailers and can stay in the field for six months because they can receive different electrical charging sources, including solar panels and batteries as well as other models of electricity generation.

The minister said that this 47-million-kuna project, which is co-funded by the European Union, will make tthe police more efficient in protecting the border.

Border police director Zoran Ničeno said that the border police directorate and the manufacturers of this equipment had cooperated in designing the border surveillance equipment.

Another nine vehicles with these systems will soon be delivered to the police so that it can cover the external border at all dominant points, said Ničeno.

In the first ten months of 2019, Croatian law enforcement forces caught 800 migrant traffickers, he said.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Wounded Migrant Undergoes 4th Surgery, Still in Critical Condition

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - The migrant gravely injured when a policeman shot him on Tuhobić mountain over the weekend underwent a fourth surgery in Rijeka on Tuesday but he remains unconscious and his condition critical.

A doctor at the Rijeka University Hospital said one bullet was found in the migrant's body and that he suffered lung, liver and spine injuries.

The accident occurred when police came across a group of illegal migrants on inaccessible terrain and one officer shot one of them in the torso and abdomen. County police said they recovered items on the scene that could help in establishing the circumstances.

Police said they could not say more because of the confidentiality of the investigation and a pending report from the Police Directorate.

The police union said the migrant was wounded when an officer's gun accidentally went off and that the migrant's life was saved because the officer acted in line with the highest principles.

None of the 17 migrants in the group has requested legal protection in Croatia, so they will be returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where they illegally entered Croatia.

More news about the migrant crisis in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Inhumane Conditions Reported in Migrant Camp Near Croatia’s Border

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - European Commission representatives called on all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday to join as soon as possible in dealing with the problems caused by the high influx of illegal migrants, insisting on the closure of the Vucjak migrant camp where hundreds of migrants stay in inhumane conditions.

Michela Matuella, head of the unit for BiH at the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, and Martin Taschner of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, talked about the migrant crisis in Bihac with representatives of the city and cantonal authorities and visited Vučjak, where migrants stay in tents without electricity, heat or running water and sleep in the mud, protected only by cartons they bring themselves.

The conditions are very bad and we are now even more convinced that this camp must be closed and that another location must be found to accommodate these people, Matuella told reporters.

The migrants in Vučjak could not be accommodated in better equipped camps in Bihac because there was no room.

"We clearly said that not only Vučjak but Bira and Miral must also be closed. We didn't give in and won't allow the accommodation capacities (in Bihac) to be enlarged," said Mustafa Ružnić, premier of Una-Sana Canton.

Matuella and Taschner said the EU had given BiH 36 million euro since the start of 2018 to provide for illegal migrants, adding that the assistance would continue to arrive but would have no results if the BiH authorities did not do their job or cooperate to put the migrant crisis under control.

We can't replace the representatives of government, Matuella said, recalling that 10 million euro was approved for BiH in August to expand accommodation capacities and build new reception centres, which have not been established.

She said it was encouraging that possible locations for illegal migrants had been found near Sarajevo and Tuzla, adding that this would reduce the pressure on Una-Sana Canton.

She said those locations were being assessed, after which a relocation plan would be made for the migrants in Vučjak.

More news about migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Police Continues Investigation of Migrant Shooting

ZAGREB, November 18, 2019 - An on-site investigation on Tuhobić mountain, where a police officer shot a migrant who is in a critical condition, has been completed and "items of interest for further investigation have been recovered," Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Police said on Monday.

They added in a press release that they could not say more for the time being given the confidentiality of the investigation and a pending report by experts of the Police Directorate.

In coordination with the county prosecutor's office, the police are continuing the investigation to establish all the relevant facts concerning the shooting of the illegal migrant and the light injuries sustained by a police officer, the press release said.

The police recalled that a group of 17 foreign citizens, including the shot migrant, illegally entered Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since none have said they intend to apply for international protection, the process of their readmission to BiH has been started.

The Rijeka University Hospital said the gravely wounded migrant was on a respirator and that his condition remained critical.

He sustained serious gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen during a police operation on Saturday in inaccessible terrain on Tuhobić mountain in the Gorski Kotar region.

Citing unofficial sources, the media have reported that the wounded migrant was carried to a car several kilometres away by the officer who should shot him and another officer. The officer allegedly wanted to shoot in the air so that other officers could come to his assistance however he tripped and fell, shooting the migrant.

The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) said on Monday it was unacceptable that police shot a migrant in the Gorski Kotar mountainous region, while the police union said the migrant was wounded when a gun accidentally went off and that his life was saved because the officer in question acted in line with the highest principles.

According to media reports, the man underwent urgent surgery due to a gunshot wound in the chest and abdomen area and Rijeka University Hospital doctors are fighting for his life. The use of firearms against refugees and migrants is becoming the rule, and the Interior Ministry and Minister Davor Božinović are doing their best to justify such conduct instead of preventing it, the CMS said in a press release.

The unofficial police information, although the investigation's findings have not been disclosed, is unconvincing and even more worrying are Božinović's statements justifying the use of firearms by police towards migrants, this nongovernmental organisation said, adding that this was not the first time that shots were fired at groups of migrants and refugees.

The SPH police union applauded the activity of all police officers protecting the state border in a difficult time when, it said, the number of people trying to illegally enter Croatia is on the rise.

Conscientious and professional police activity is necessary to maintain the state's integrity and citizens' security as well as to meet all the commitments Croatia undertook by joining the EU and other international agreements and associations, SPH president Dubravko Jagić said in a press release.

As for the shooting of the migrant in Gorski Kotar, he said all public and official information so far indicated that he was shot when the gun of one of the police officers who came across a group of illegal migrants accidentally went off.

Unfortunately, the wounds were grave and the person is still in serious condition, but his life was saved only because the officer whose gun accidentally went off acted in line with all the highest principles of the police profession and humanity, carrying the migrant, together with a colleague, over three kilometres of inaccessible terrain to a place which an ambulance could reach, Jagić said.

The dedicated work of the police to save the life of a migrant is a deeply humane act, the union concluded.

More news about migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Migrant Gravely Injured in Police Operation

ZAGREB, November 17, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Saturday night that the migrant who was injured in the afternoon as police were preventing illegal migration in the Gorski Kotar area sustained a serious injury and that he was undergoing surgery in a Rijeka hospital.

Around 5 p.m., the police were protecting the state border, i.e. preventing a group of illegal migrants from crossing Croatia near Tuhobić, who were most likely trying to reach Slovenia, and one migrant was injured in the process, Božinović told reporters.

According to available information, the injury was probably caused by a firearm. The minister said the county prosecutor's office would investigate and that a Police Directorate team would also inspect the matter.

He talked with the doctors treating the injured migrant and said the injury was serious and that he was being operated on.

Asked if the migrants were armed, Božinović said he could not say at the moment due to the investigation to be carried out on Monday.

The other migrants, about 15 of them, are in a police station, he said.

The migrant wounded during a police operation in the Gorski Kotar region on Saturday has undergone surgery but his condition is critical, so he is still in intensive care, the Rijeka University Hospital said on Sunday.

The patient underwent surgery for a gunshot wound in the torso and abdominal area, the hospital said.

A foreign citizen suspected of staying in Croatia illegally was injured on Saturday afternoon on inaccessible terrain in the Gorski Kotar mountainous region during an operation by police who work on the prevention of illegal migration, the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Police said last night.

More news about migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Bosnia: We Are Not Encouraging Migrants to Go to Croatia

ZAGREB, November 16, 2019 - The minister of the interior of Una-Sana canton, Nermin Kljajić, has rejected accusations that the local authorities in this region of north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina are encouraging illegal migrants to go to Croatia, saying that the two countries are facing the same problem, the news website said on Saturday.

The Zagreb-based newspaper Večernji List said on Saturday that Croatian security services were considering a possibility of denying entry to those Bosnian officials who encourage illegal migrants to continue their journey towards Croatia as soon as possible, and that Kljajić was under special scrutiny because of his previous statements.

Kljajić said that no one in Una-Sana canton was working on planned transfers of migrants to Croatia and that migrants who had managed to cross the border into Croatia in an effort to get to western Europe were individual cases.

"In the last two years about 60,000 migrants have passed through the camps in Una-Sana canton, which means that about 54,000 of them have ended up in EU countries. Those people came to Bosnia and Herzegovina with the intention of reaching EU countries. Croatia is justifiably dissatisfied, as are we ... because our state institutions are not managing the migration process properly and we are dealing with the consequences together," Kljajić said.

He said that Croatia needn't worry about the steps being taken by the cantonal authorities.

Earlier this week, a dedicated cantonal task force on illegal migration decided to restrict the movement of illegal migrants staying in Bihać and Veliša Kladusa as of November 15. Under the decision, migrants accommodated in the Bira and Miral reception centres will not be allowed to leave and return as they please and only those wishing to continue their journey towards Croatia will be allowed to leave.

There has been no confirmation that such measures are indeed being implemented.

Meanwhile, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned that any restriction of migrants' movement and putting them in some sort of detention would be a drastic violation of their human rights.

More news about migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

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