Monday, 20 June 2022

Number of Unaccompanied Children Migrants on Rise

ZAGREB, 20 June 2022 - Croatia's ombudsman for children, Helenca Pirnat Dragičević and the UNHCR said on Monday that there had been headway in the protection of children asylum seekers lately in the country, however there were more and more unaccompanied minors arriving in Croatia.

During a round table discussion, held on World Refugee Day, Pirnat Dragičević ad UNHCR representatives highlighted the adoption of the protocol on the treatment of unaccompanied children migrants in 2018 and the recent amendments to the Foster Parenthood Law as positive things.

They also praised Croatian hosts for their heartfelt reception of Ukrainian refugees, including unaccompanied minors.

However, they said in a joint press release that there is still room for improvement, which requires the attention of all stakeholders, and they are pushing for the full adjustment of Croatia's child protection system with international principles and standards.

They also called for boosting translation resources for Ukrainian school-age children.

In 2020, Croatia registered 942 children asylum seekers, and in 2021, this number increased by 25% to 1,181. The number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has increased by 5%.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 20 June 2022

NGO: Croatian Policies Marked by Violence Towards Refugees

ZAGREB, 20 June 2022 - Croatia's refugee policies are full of violence and human rights violations, Sara Kekuš of the Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) nongovernmental organisation said on Monday, World Refugee Day, recalling the need to build a more open, solidary and inclusive society. 

"World Refugee Day is a reminder that we can make this society more open, more solidary and more inclusive," Kekuš told a news conference outside the government and parliament buildings.

She noted that state policies towards refugees should be solidary but were currently not and were actually full of violence and violations of human rights, including those of children as the most vulnerable group.

Ahead of a free screening of the documentary "Shadow Game", to be staged by the CMS at Zagreb's Tuškanac cinema on Monday evening, Kekuš introduced the film's protagonists - Sajid Khan from Afghanistan and Jano from Syrian Kurdistan, who experienced pushbacks on Croatia's border as unaccompanied minors.

Please treat all people, including children, equally, said Khan, who at the age of 15 found himself in a situation in which he had to cross the green border, walk through the woods and climb mountains and encounter Croatian police.

The film's director, Eefje Blankevoort, said that it was time to stop and look at what was happening not only on Croatia's but also on Europe's borders.

She said that while making the movie she spoke to many refugees who had experienced violence and violent pushbacks on European and Croatian borders.

A boy in the film, Mustafa, was pushed back 50 times and tortured on the border. Croatian police officers, 14 of them, tortured him, broke his arm and used a taser on him, she said.

As part of events marking World Refugee Day, the CMS and the Stress and Trauma Rehabilitation Centre will hold a panel discussion on unaccompanied children in Croatia at the KIC venue in Zagreb's Preradovićeva Street at 5 pm Monday.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

188 Migrant Smugglers Arrested in First Three Months of 2022, Večernji List Says

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - The arrival of spring and warmer days has activated migrant routes across Croatia, with the most active route in recent days being from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

Coming mainly from the direction of Velika Kladuša or Bihać in BiH, migrants try to cross Croatia to reach Slovenia, then Austria, Germany, France and other countries in central and northern Europe.

Last year 15 migrants died while attempting to illegally cross the border, most frequently by drowning and in traffic accidents, the Interior Ministry said.

In the first three months of this year, there have been 3,433 attempts by migrants to illegally cross the border, up 5% on the year, and 188 smugglers have been arrested, up 23% on the year, the ministry said.

It is estimated that there are 2,000 migrants in camps in Velika Kladuša and Bihać as well as 5,000 in Serbia, Večernji List said, adding that in past years there were more migrants in BiH than in Serbia attempting to illegally cross the Croatian border.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Monday, 18 April 2022

Šimonović Einwalter: System Must Change After the Verdict On Madina's Death

April 18, 2022 - Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter believes that, after the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that holds the Croatian government responsible for the death of little Madina Hosseini, the system must be changed to one that guarantees the security and respect for the human rights of the refugees who enter to Croatia. She points out, in relation to the current situation in Ukraine, that she would like a future response from the EU to be the same for all those escaping the horrors of war.

Ombudswoman Tena Šimonovic Einwalter said in an interview with Hina that, following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the death of Madina Hosseini, it is important to change the system because ''as a state we want to respect human rights. This is the complete opposite of what Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the Croatian representative in the Strasbourg court, Štefica Stažnik, claim''. Namely, they both assure that this is not a systemic problem, because Croatia has not been declared responsible for the death of little Madina, but for an ineffective investigation into her death.

The six-year-old girl, Madina Hosseini was killed in November 2017 when she was hit by a train on the Croatian-Serbian border after her family had allegedly been denied the opportunity to seek asylum by Croatian authorities and were ordered to return to Serbia via the tracks.


Madina Hosseini (Photo: Family album)

The ECtHR confirmed that in Madina's case, Croatia had violated rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. As stated in the verdict, Madina's right to life, humiliated her family's children by keeping them in custody, illegally deprived the whole family of their liberty, and collectively expelled part of the family from Croatia and denied them access to a lawyer.

Why is this verdict significant?

In an interview with Hina, Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter commented on the significance of the verdict itself and the moves that Croatia needs to make in order to execute the verdict of that court.

Speaking about the human rights situation, Šimonović Einwalter announced that, in addition to the annual report already published, she would soon present a special report to the Croatian Parliament on the impact of the epidemic in the last two years on human rights and equality.

HINA: The ECtHR passed a verdict deciding in this particular case, but can it be said that it also said that Croatia is systematically violating the rights of refugees at the borders?

ŠIMONOVIC EINWALTER: It is difficult for the ECHR to say that in that way, in those words. This verdict addresses the issue of the treatment of Madina's family, in this specific situation. But the court also says that the case "raises several important issues about migration control by the Croatian authorities" and that "the impact of this case goes beyond the special situation of the family". The court also took into account a number of earlier allegations of violations of migrants' rights.

Some sentences from the decision, it seems to me, therefore indicate that the impact of the case goes beyond this particular family situation and I think it is good to read it that way if we want changes. It is important to carefully analyze and seriously implement this court decision and change the system because as a state we want to respect national law, European law, international law, and human rights. Is there the will to do it? I really hope so.

HINA: The court found that the convention had been violated because the police at the border did not assess the individual situation of the refugee family before they were deported to Serbia. It did not accept the state's argument that the refugee family was crossing the border illegally. What does this mean now, since the beginning of that refugee crisis, it has been persistently emphasized that we are "defending" ourselves at the borders from those who break the law by crossing them?

ŠIMONOVIĆ EINWALTER: In fact, the legal situation was clear even before this decision. It is often pointed out that the police should guard the border, that illegal crossing of the state border is prohibited, and that is exactly what the law says. At the same time, it is legally defined that persons have the right to seek international protection, regardless of the manner of entry into the country. Therefore, there must be an individualized procedure. It includes, because of the risk of violating international law, the possibility that people who are in a specific situation because of fleeing war and exposure to practices such as torture or the death penalty in their countries of origin have the right to seek international protection. It is also needed by people who are victims of human trafficking, rape, or severe violence.

You can't know if that person will have the right to asylum without conducting a procedure - to ask who that person is, where he is fleeing from and why, it is not written on anyone's forehead. As a first contact, officials should try to identify vulnerable people who may want to apply for international protection.

This is a matter of individualized approach, where special vulnerability is sometimes visible at first, for example in children or unaccompanied children, and the best interests of the child must take precedence.


Tena Šimonović Einwalter (Photo: Zeljko Hladika/PIXSELL)

HINA: In the next six months, Croatia must conduct an effective investigation into Madina's death, but also draw up an action plan to eliminate the violations identified by the court. Will this change the situation and the protocol for treating refugees?

ŠIMONOVIĆ EINWALTER: Within six months, but maybe earlier, the Office of the Representative of the Republic of Croatia before the ECtHR must adopt an action plan. In this regard, through a body in which representatives of various institutions participate, we can also give expert opinions and proposals, and it includes ministries, courts, the Constitutional Court, and others. The point of the ECtHR judgments is justice for individuals, but also to change the practice, if necessary the laws, in order to respect the legal standards of human rights protection. It can also be a question of, for example, how to conduct an effective investigation, which was an important issue in this case. We have also heard that Minister Davor Božinović has publicly stated that the responsibility in such cases is on the system and that we need to see what are the things that can and should be corrected.

HINA: Has the Ukrainian crisis shown that those fleeing the war can be treated differently?

ŠIMONOVIĆ EINWALTER: We are currently witnessing great solidarity of citizens towards Ukrainians, but I would like to remind you that we saw this solidarity of citizens in 2015 as well - and then many were ready to help. However, now the European Union has reacted differently than in 2015. The Temporary Protection Directive existed even then, and could theoretically be activated. It is a political decision at the EU level.

With the recent activation of the directive, IDPs from Ukraine have a much simpler and faster procedure. What can be discussed is whether it should have been activated in the past. Could it have been any different for some other people fleeing another war? I believe that a new level of solidarity and assistance to refugees is now being seen. In an ideal world, I would like to see Europe respond in this way to all refugees fleeing the horrors of war.

HINA: Your report makes recommendations on how to address the shortcomings you have identified in the implementation of human rights. Judging by the number, a total of 156 recommendations, a lot of work, what needs to be worked on the most?

ŠIMONOVIĆ EINWALTER: There are many problems, and I would like to point out the problems of access to health care and health services, the need for stronger support and protection of senior citizens, the issue of access to information for citizens regarding rights, and how to exercise them. It is necessary to ensure that the institutions suit them, that the procedures do not take too long, that they are less formalistic, and that their work shows the understanding that they are there for the citizens, to provide them with an easier way to exercise their rights. In some areas, the problems are long-lasting, I have been working in this institution for 14 years and changes are happening slowly.

We also point out systemic problems analytically and comprehensively. What I am always happy about are the improvements, and of course, there are some, especially when fulfilling some of our recommendations, either in an individual case or these systematic ones from the annual report, lead to a higher level of rights for citizens. That is the point of these recommendations. From the Report for 2020, 43 percent of the recommendations were implemented, which is a big jump compared to 2019, when 20 percent of them were implemented. I hope this trend continues.

HINA: In times of insecurity, the most socially vulnerable groups are particularly hard hit. How should the state act on this?

ŠIMONOVIĆ EINWALTER: Those who have been ill before always suffer the most. It will be the same now - it is the poorer senior citizens, but also those who live near the poverty line. Single-parent families and those with three or more children are in a difficult position.

Government measures to alleviate the situation are welcome, but they will certainly not remove all concerns from citizens. It is important to monitor at the state level whether the measures should be corrected, with special attention to the impact on those who find it particularly difficult, and we will monitor this as well.

HINA: A large number of complaints were related to the use of covid certificates and vaccinations. How has the epidemic affected equality and human rights in Croatia?

SIMONOVIC EINWALTER: We have been through a lot in these two years. The epidemic is still actually going on, so while many of us are feeling relieved, no one knows what will happen in the fall. These experiences should be used to learn and strengthen the key sectors: health, social, education, and civil protection. We are currently finalizing a special report on the impact of the epidemic on human rights and equality in those two years, which we will soon submit to Parliament. The purpose of this report is to see what the effects of the epidemic are and how to manage it. It has changed our lives and we need to see what can be done better and differently.

That is why we analyze the impact on certain human rights and certain groups of citizens because some have fared worse. These are the elderly, but they are not the only ones. There is also the impact of poverty and the availability of different services. The fact is that not everyone could be vaccinated, for health reasons, and at the same time, we had the question of the availability of testing, which was not the same for everyone. There are also lessons about informing citizens, given the fake news and misinformation. We will include all of this in the recommendations, and I hope that this report will be the basis for positive progress towards strengthening the resilience of society in the future, to the epidemic, but also to other possible crises.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

Over 14,300 Ukrainian Refugees Have Entered Croatia So Far

ZAGREB, 16 April 2022 - Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 14,340 refugees from that eastern European country have arrived in Croatia, the Croatian Civil Protection Directorate said on Saturday.

Of them, 7,044 (49.1%) are women, and 5,242 are children (36.6%), while the remaining 2,045 (14.3%) are men.

Most of them, 12,625, are being accommodated individually, and 1,691 are in collective accommodation facilities, while currently 24 refugees are in reception centres.

The Croatian Civil Protection Directorate has made 38 facilities available for refugees where they can be provided with accommodation.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Nobody Called to Account for Violation of Refugees' Human Rights, NGO Says

ZAGREB, 13 April 2022 - The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) NGO warned Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in an open letter on Wednesday of pushbacks and the failure to call to account those responsible for the violation of human rights of refugees and other migrants, which, it said, happen on a daily basis.

The CMS warns in the letter that Croatia has not been considered a humane country for a long time due to its treatment of refugees.

It notes that the Netherlands on Wednesday decided to suspend the return of refugees to Croatia under the Dublin Regulation due to unlawful and forcible expulsions to which refugees could be subjected.

"That is yet another embarrassment for the country you represent," the NGO said in the letter to Plenković.

It recalls having demanded that Plenković, after in November 2021 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Croatia in the case of Afghan migrant girl Madina Hussiny, replace national police chief Nikola Milina, Border Police Directorate head Zoran Ničeno, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović and state secretary Terezija Gras.

The demand was repeated last week following reports that the ECHR ruling in the Hussiny case has become final, but Plenković again refused to do so, saying that the ruling was of an individual character and was not proof of any systemic problem for which the authorities could be responsible, the CMS says.

Recalling in its letter the ruling in the Hussiny case, the CMS also warns that two other cases against Croatia for the collective expulsion of refugees have been underway before the ECHR.

It notes that, according to media reports, refugees are provided with inadequate accommodation, such as in garages.

The CMS also warns that in the past six years there have been numerous reports by civil society organisations, domestic institutions for human rights protection and international institutions, as well as media reports and footage by domestic and foreign media, and testimonies by refugees and police officers, showing that this is a systematic, long-lasting and widespread practice.

"The gravest forms of violation of refugees' and other migrants' human rights in our country happen on a daily basis, and nobody has answered for it yet," the NGO says in the letter.

Following each report of refugees having been beaten up and pushed back, the Ministry of the Interior claimed that it was an isolated incident, as stated also by Plenković in a comment on the death of Madina Hussiny and systematic harassment of her family.

"Prime Minister Plenković, how many isolated incidents constitute systematic practice?" the NGO asks the PM in the letter, calling for the replacement of the responsible officials.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Final Verdict of the ECHR: Croatia Responsible for Death of Madina Hosseini

April 5, 2022 - The European Court of Human Rights rejected Croatia's request to reconsider the case of the family of little Madina Hosseini, which confirmed the previous verdict and the responsibility of the Republic of Croatia for the tragedy arising from it. Interior Minister Davor Božinović says his resignation is ''not on the table'' following the ruling. reports that, in the tragic death of six-year-old Madina Hosseini, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last year found the Republic of Croatia responsible for numerous human rights violations under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: the right to life, the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, the prohibition of the collective expulsion of aliens, the right to security and liberty and the right to institute legal proceedings. The Republic of Croatia requested a reconsideration of the case, but the court rejected the request on Monday. The Center for Peace Studies reported on its Facebook page, stating that the case of little Madina Hosseini is finally over.

''The Grand Council of the European Court of Human Rights rejected the request of the Republic of Croatia to reconsider the case of little Madina's family and thus reaffirmed the verdict that the Republic of Croatia violated Madina's right to life, treated children inhumanely, kept the whole family illegally, and part of the family was collectively expelled from Croatia, and after all that, they were denied access to lawyers'', Center for Peace Studies shared on their Facebook page.


Madina Hosseini (Photo: Hosseini family)

The Office of the Croatian Representative before the European Court of Human Rights also informed that the verdict had been passed and that it had become final by rejecting the Croatian request.

''On April 4, 2022, a committee of five judges of the Grand Council of the European Court of Human Rights rejected the request of the Republic of Croatia to submit the case of MH to the Grand Council. Thus, the judgment of the Council of 18 November 2021 became final and the procedure of its execution will follow'', the Office said in a statement.

The full verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of little Madina Hosseini on 18 November 2021 can be read (in Croatian) in Tportal's original article.

This judgment of the ECHR confirms various problems that many actors have been pointing out for many years and about which we report to the Croatian Parliament, the competent authorities, and the public. This primarily refers to the lack of an effective investigation into allegations of human rights violations of migrants, which is necessary in order for the authorities to dispel suspicions or confirm the allegations, Ombudsman Tena Simonovic Einwalter said in November last year.

In this case, it also referred to the work of the police, the State Attorney's Office, and the judiciary, with the ECHR assessing the effectiveness of the investigation in a different way than the Constitutional Court and, among other things, the way in which the effectiveness of the investigation was examined was indicated in a separate opinion by three judges. To maintain the rule of law in which no one, especially the police, can be above the law, an effective investigation is crucial, taking into account information provided by the mother and police officers about the tragic event, which includes all available information to establish the factual situation (including recordings of thermal imaging cameras, data on the movement and location of police officers by recording the signals of their mobile devices, police vehicles via GPS devices or members of the Hosseini family via their mobile devices), said Ombudswoman Simonovic Einwalter. According to the judgment of the ECHR, and as we ourselves warned, the competent authorities failed to do so, she added.

In the part related to the restriction of freedom of movement of Madina's family with eight children, they warned that it was not clear which procedures were used during the individual assessment of whether other measures, alternatives to detention, could have served the same purpose. In doing so, the proceedings themselves were conducted in the English language, which M. Hosseini's mother did not understand.

How has the Croatian Interior Minister responded?

The Center for Peace Studies issued a statement today stating that "after this strong and final confirmation of the verdict, the Government of the Republic of Croatia and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković can no longer turn their heads, but must urgently dismiss those responsible led by Interior Minister Davor Božinović''.


Minister of Interior, Davor Božinović, at the US-Croatian Forum in Zagreb which began yesterday. (Photo: Igor Soban/PIXSELL)

Following the ECHR ruling, Božinović said today that "his resignation is not on the table", N1 reports.

"As a minister, I can say, as I said, that it is a tragedy. That it affects us all. Certain investigative actions have been carried out, the court has concluded what it has concluded and we need to take measures to improve the system. My resignation is not on the table."

He said the responsibility in such cases is on the system.

"We have to see what are all the things that can and should be corrected. This was the case in other cases as well. The point of these judgments is to actually fix the system and it is always a matter of correcting what is stated as a defect. Either through certain solutions when it comes to regulations or by changing some practices. The function of the court is precisely to point out such shortcomings", said the Minister.

Journalists also asked the minister if his position was "on ice" because of this verdict.

"Reconstruction is something the prime minister will decide on."

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 28 February 2022

HDZ Whip Says 193 Ukrainian Refugees Registered in Croatia

28 February, 2022 - Ruling HDZ party whip Branko Bačić said on Monday that there were currently 193 Ukrainian refugees in Croatia and that 3.5 million refugees from that country were expected in the EU if the Russian aggression against Ukraine continued.

The Croatian government will send humanitarian and technical aid to Ukraine, and its health system is preparing for the reception of the wounded, he said.

A special task force will be formed at today's government session to be in charge of the reception of refugees, Bačić told reporters in the parliament after a meeting of the inner cabinet with representatives of the parliamentary majority and opposition parties on the topic of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

The meeting, held on Monday morning, was attended by representatives of all opposition parties and there was no dissonance regarding the sending of aid to Ukraine, he said.

The broadest possible consensus was reached by all parliamentary parties on the government's position regarding the Russian military aggression and full support was expressed for Ukraine's struggle for territorial sovereignty and integrity, Bačić said.

Further joint meetings at the level of the ruling coalition for the duration of the aggression were agreed, as were meetings at the level of representatives of opposition parties and the ruling coalition.

It was agreed that PM Andrej Plenković would address MPs in the coming days on the steps taken by the government.

According to information available to Croatia's Ambassador to Ukraine, Ankica Djamić, there are still 35 Croatian nationals in Ukraine and they have been in touch with the embassy the whole time, said Bačić.

Vote on new construction minister possible on Friday 

Bačić also said that a special task force would be monitoring Croatia's supply with energy products.

Around 43% of gas for consumption in EU member states comes from Russia and in Croatia the share of Russian gas is 22%.

"The HDZ has welcomed the fact that given the LNG terminal on Krk island, Croatia will not have supply problems either until the end of or after the heating season," said Bačić.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić informed participants in today's meetings that Fortenova Grupa was not suffering any consequences of the current situation, and that more than 90% of depositors at Sberbank d.d. were protected by the deposit insurance system.

Marić added that the government was closely monitoring the possibility of the crisis spilling over to the southeast, noting that since 1939 there had been no event in Europe that could be compared with the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

As for the appointment of the new construction minister, Marić said that the decision was being prepared and that the parliament might vote on the new minister already on Friday.

Marić declined to comment on potential candidates, saying only that the prime minister had interviewed them.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Davor Bozinovic: Several Ukrainian Refugees Have Arrived in Croatia

February the 27th, 2022 - Ukrainian refugees have begun to arrive in other countries following Russia's illegal and unjustified invasion of their country. Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has stated that several Ukrainian nationals have already arrived in Croatia and that the groundwork to make them comfortable and provide for their needs is now underway.

The news comes just after Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic took to Twitter to tweet that he has spoken with the government and with the Red Cross and that things were now fully underway to accept fleeing Ukrainian refugees.

''I convened a meeting with members of @VladaRH, Civil Protection and @crvenikriz_hr in order to raise the level of preparedness regarding the reception of refugees from Ukraine due to Russian aggression. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people'' read Plenkovic's tweet.

As N1 Hrvatska writes, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has stated that things are moving forward and that those who usually deal with the question of refguees are all involved.

"Everyone who deals with refugee issues was there. We've decided to structure the coordination [of the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees in Croatia] through one government body that will engage with as much intensity as the situation requires of our institutions. We've reviewed the current situation on these issues,'' said Davor Bozinovic, before adding:

"A special council has been convened in Brussels, I will go there and we will consider these issues at the European Union (EU) level, given that the potential is such that more or less all EU member states are likely to be involved in dealing with the increased influx of displaced persons from Ukraine, and all countries have prepared for their reception.

A dozen people from Ukraine entered Croatia who came through private channels, through friendly contacts, and they have been properly accommodated in private accommodation,'' the minister said.

He said Croatia has accommodation facilities to accommodate an influx of Ukrainian refugees as the conflict there escalates even further.

"The point of today's meeting is to simply coordinate the matter," he added.

"We can manage, we're ready, if needed - and I must say that I would not like to rush into it - but yes, we can accommodate people from today onwards," concluded Davor Bozinovic.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Serbian Civil Society Activists Accuse Croatian Police of Brutality Towards Migrants

ZAGREB, 7 Dec, 2021 - Currently there are over 4,000 Afghan refugees and migrants along the border between Serbia and Croatia, often encountering the brutality of the Croatian police after crossing the border, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation told a press conference in Belgrade on Monday. 

Vladan Jeremić, the Foundation's representative for Southeast Europe, said that collective expulsions, abuse and arbitrary arrests had been going on at the Serbian-Croatian border since 2016 despite the efforts by civil society organisation to prevent such things from happening.

Croatia denies accusations of inhumane treatment of migrants.

Jeremić said that the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, which is close to the German leftwing party Die Linke, supported the report by Nikola Kovačević documenting human rights abuses on the Serbian-Croatian border. Its aim is to provide civil society organisations with guidance on how to document and legally oppose unlawful practices along the border between Serbia and Croatia.

Violent behaviour is not happening in cooperation with the Serbian police, but away from border crossing points, with migrants being beaten up, humiliated, dispossessed of their valuables, and threatened at gun point, said Milica Švabić of the Belgrade-based KlikAtiv Centre for Development of Social Policies.

She said that about 1,700 people are currently staying in three official migrant camps at the western town of Šid, while an estimated 4,000, including families and unaccompanied minors, are staying in abandoned buildings and in tents in the woods in the surrounding area. They are trying to cross the border almost every day, running the risk of violent push-backs.

The practice of illegal and violent push-backs of refugees from Croatia is still ongoing on a daily basis, Švabić said.

Although they are also being expelled from Hungary and Romania, refugees claim that the Croatian police is the most brutal in push-backs, Švabić said, adding that the refugees who have been expelled by the Croatian police regularly report having been beaten with truncheons and rifle-butts and many have suffered serious injuries, including fractures and head injuries.

Ana Ćuća from the Zagreb-based Centre for Peace Studies said that Croatia has used systematic violence against migrants since 2016, seizing their personal belongings and mobile phones, beating them, confining them in basements, and allowing police dogs to attack them.

Victims are not just adults, but children too. These are not individual cases, but orders from the political leadership, which often cannot be avoided, Ćuća said.

She said that civil society activists in Croatia are victims of police intimidation because they draw attention to human rights violations on the EU border, which, she added, makes the EU responsible too.

Ćuća said that the change in the EU migrant policy has resulted in violence, adding that more and more Croatian police officers are anonymously providing information on the structure of the system of violent and illegal expulsions of refugees.

This policy comes from Brussels and it can be ended only if EU member states and countries suffering the consequences of such a policy demand it.

Kovačević said that victims should get certain compensation for violence they are subjected to, and that those responsible for abuse should be identified and the government should also be held to account.

Kovačević is the recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Award 2021 for helping refugees.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

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