Migration crisis – “Croatian police officers react like wild animals”

Posted21 October 2021, 08:09

After the publication of scandalous reports of illegal refoulements, report in a makeshift camp on the Bosnian-Croatian border.

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The muddy camp of northern Bosnia, Velika Kladusa.

AFP

The muddy camp of northern Bosnia, Velika Kladusa.

AFP

The muddy camp of northern Bosnia, Velika Kladusa.

The muddy camp of northern Bosnia, Velika Kladusa.

AFP

In northwestern Bosnia, migrants in search of Europe say Croatian police beat them with sticks, threaten them with weapons and steal their belongings. But despite the fear of violence, they will try for the umpteenth time to cross into Croatia, before winter.

“The Croatian police are reacting like wild animals, they hit everyone, refugees, children, women, young people, old people,” Ibrahim Rasool, 32, who fled the country, told AFP. Afghanistan, four years ago.

With dozens of mainly Afghan migrant families, he survives in a muddy camp in Velika Kladusa, a village near the border with Croatia, from where he hopes to enter the European Union.

For years, human rights defenders have accused the Croatian police of pushing back migrants by force of violence and humiliation, based on the testimonies of refugees but also of whistleblowers within the police. Zagreb has consistently denied.

But after the recent publication by European media of images showing hooded men in uniform violently pushing back a group of refugees into Bosnia, the Croatian authorities confirmed that members of its special police were included in the videos in question.

Greece and Romania have also been questioned by these media for their treatment of migrants.

Tacit assent?

Brussels called for investigations. “The Commission is strongly opposed to all refoulement practices which it has repeatedly said were illegal,” hammered a spokesperson, Adalbert Jahnz.

Insufficient for the defenders of the rights who believe that the block gives its tacit assent to actions which last for too long.

“The influxes of migrants do not serve the interests of Europe and there will be fewer of them if the deterrence is more violent,” Jasmin Klaric, respected columnist for the Croatian site, told AFP. Telegram.

Croatia and Bosnia are on the “Balkan route” taken by those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

According to Bosnian estimates, since 2018, more than 80,000 marchers have managed to cross its territory and pass into Croatia, en route to the north of the bloc.

But thousands are being turned away and stories of violence abound.

«400 euros»

In Velika Kladusa, there is neither water nor electricity. A woman warms her feet in the flames of a campfire. While night temperatures approach zero degrees, migrants know that they have little time for a new “game”, the name they give to their attempts to cross. If they fail, they will have to spend another winter in one of the official reception centers opened by Bosnia at the request of Brussels, heated but far from the border.

Ibrahim Rasool, 32, a former futsal player, who arrived in Bosnia a month ago after three years in Greece, has been turned back several times by Croatian police.

“They took all the phones from us and hit us with bats. They were armed. One of them pointed the gun against my forehead, ”he says.

He is traveling with two families, 18 people in total, including children, and the group saw a bear once. But they favor “the forest and the possible encounter with wild animals to avoid the police, which is much more dangerous”.

Amir Ali Mirzai, a 24-year-old musician who left Afghanistan with his family three months ago in the midst of the Taliban offensive, told AFP that he was attacked by the police. “I had 400 euros that they took from me, just like the phone. They didn’t give me anything back. They beat me and sent us back to Bosnia ”.

Croatia argued that the latest violence filmed by journalists were isolated cases, announcing the suspension of three police officers.

According to rights activists, the abuses have worsened since the closure of the Balkan route in 2016.

“Fortress Europe”

“Verbal insults, mistreatment have turned into physical violence,” Tea Vidovic, from the Center for Peace Studies, an NGO in Zagreb, told AFP.

Croatia wants to enter the Schengen area of ​​free movement of persons by 2024 but is required to protect its borders for this.

“Brussels and some countries are hypocrites,” the Croatian daily wrote recently Vecernji List. “They condemn the violence but do not want to open their doors to migrants and insist that external countries, including Croatia, prevent them from entering the fortress europe.

According to the NGO Danish Refugee Council, more than 30,000 people have been prevented from crossing from Bosnia to Croatia since June 2019.

In Velika Kladusa, migrants are determined to reach the EU before winter, when the rivers are already swollen by the rains.

“It’s getting cold here,” said Zahir Panahi, 41, who left Kabul two years ago. With his wife and four sons, they are preparing for their 29th “game”.

(AFP)

 
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