ZAGREB, October 5, 2018 – The Ministry of the Interior on Friday refuted accusations made by the Council of Europe about collective deportations of migrants and violence they were subjected to in Croatia, after that organisation urged Zagreb to “stop collective deportation of and police violence against illegal migrants.”
On Friday morning, the CoE issued a statement in which CoE Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović says that national and foreign NGOs have been warning about violence and deportations of irregular migrants for quite some time now.
The ministry recalls that for the purpose of full reporting, it is necessary to inform the public that Minister Davor Božinović on 3 October forwarded to Mijatović detailed answers regarding methods of the Croatian border police conduct, how international protection functions in Croatia and efforts Croatia invests in pursuing joint European policies.
Croatia, a member of the European Union and an aspirant for joining the Schengen passport-free area in the foreseeable time, has the sovereign right to control the arrival of foreign nationals on its territory and is also supposed to safeguard the state border against illegal arrivals, the ministry says in its press release.
Since mid-2017, the personnel and technical capacities of the border police along the external border have been enhanced, and measures of deterrence have been stepped up in response to increasing migrations along the so-called Mediterranean and western Balkan routes.
The deterrence, envisaged by rules about the Schengen borders, also provides for measures and actions aimed at preventing illegal crossings of the border, the ministry underscores.
Having in mind that the its borders with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently most exposed to illegal migrations, Croatia has engaged a large number of police officers to protect that frontier and has set up state of the art technical devices for border surveillance around the clock and in all weather conditions.
The land border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the sea border with Montenegro is being monitored by a Frontex airplane, according to the ministry’s press release.
All reports filed by NGOs about ill treatment of migrants have been checked as much as it is possible having in mind that usually there have been no concrete piece of evidence or data necessary to conduct a police investigation, the ministry says.
So far, not a single accusation about violence committed by the law enforcement authorities has been proven true, the ministry underscores.
It also refutes accusations that the police stole any of the belongings of foreign nationals.
The ministry says that accusations about violence were motivated by migrants’ expectations that such claims may help them, to again reach Croatia on their way to western Europe after the police managed to deter their illegal entrance to Croatia.
In this context, the ministry gives statistics about applications for international protection and cases in which it has been granted. However, the experience shows that 77% of those irregular migrants who upon their arrival in Croatia express their intention to apply for international protection, leave Croatia even before submitting the application or immediately after the procedure for considering their application is launched.
All this leads to the conclusion that migrants do not actually want to stay in Croatia but they use it in transit before reaching their destinations in western or northern Europe.
Such developments made nobody happy, and the ministry recalls that the European Council has called on all EU member-states to take all necessary administrative and legislative measures to prevent such flows of migrants.
The ministry also reacted to UNHCR reports and says that it included unchecked claims and accusations. Thus, some of the claims, cited by the UNHCR, were made by an NGO activist who has been fined for enabling irregular migrant to pass the border unlawfully. Activist Umičević has been fined 60,000 kuna for helping a group of migrants in March this year to illegally cross the Croatian border. Županja Misdemeanour Court found Umičević guilty pending appeal, of helping 14 Afghan refugees to illegally cross the border from Serbia into Croatia near the town of Strošinci, by sending them light signals of where to cross the border.
The ministry says during the heightened migratory pressure on some segments of the Croatian border, the police will continue do their job, showing respect for the fundamental rights of the migrants and implementing consistently relevant rules stemming from the national legislation and the EU acquis.