NGOs Detail Allegations about Mistreatment of Refugees by Croatian Police

Total Croatia News

NGOs allege that the police take money from refugees and forcibly expel them from Croatia. Interior Ministry denies the claims.

NGOs Welcome Initiative and Are You Syrious? Association have called on Croatian police to immediately stop abruptly and illegally expelling refugees from Croatian territory and to urgently investigate unlawful deportations across the border, as well as to sanction violent police officers, reports on January 25, 2017.

The two NGOs presented a report on allegedly illegal and violent behaviour toward refugees in Croatia which includes testimonies from about 50 refugees. Activists talked with them during the last month in refugee camps and abandoned warehouses in Belgrade and Šid in Serbia. The refugees spoke about “shocking and abusive treatment toward refugees in Croatia”.

“According to our information, families and individuals of all ages, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria, are being expelled from Croatian territory, although many of them have repeatedly and explicitly asked for international protection and asylum”, said Magda Sindičić from the Are You Syrious? Association. “This represents systematic violation of human rights and violation of international law which has been going on in Croatia for over a year”, she added.

Activists pointed out that they were not talking about the official return of refugees from Croatia, but about illegal and secret expulsions from Croatia to Serbia being carried out by the Croatian police, often accompanied by violence and humiliation.

“Most people with whom we talked were expelled from Croatia several times in the last few months, which was accompanied with denying access to the asylum system and different forms of violence”, said Emina Bužinkić from the Welcome Initiative. She alleged that the refugees applied for asylum at police stations in Zagreb, Zaprešić, Đakovo and Vinkovci. They were taken from police station to the border area with Serbia, usually to a location between Tovarnik and Šid, along the railway line, where they were directed towards the Serbian territory, added Bužinkić.

She also warned that the refugees described that they spent several hours and days in detention in police stations, were victims of threats and ridicule, were forced to sign documents in a language they did not understand, and were expelled despite explicitly seeking asylum.

“Valuable and personal items were taken from the refugees, their cell phones were destroyed, their watches, bags and documents taken away. They are exposed to various forms of verbal violence, shouting, belittling, mocking and cursing. Moreover, they were victims of various forms of physical violence, shoving, kicking, hitting with batons and forced undressing”, said Bužinkić, stressing that such actions by Croatian police represented an incentive for those who engage in human trafficking. “If the borders were open and refugees were able to seek asylum, there would be no need for combating trafficking.”

Activists said they would file a report with the Interior Ministry, Ombudsperson and international institutions for the protection of human rights, such as the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

Journalist Davor Konjikušić said that, after the closure of the so-called Balkan route through Croatia, journalists were having difficulties in obtaining information from the Croatian Interior Ministry. “Communication with the Ministry has been extremely reduced and the police has not given specific answers to our inquiries”, he said.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Interior Minister Vlaho Orepić denied the charges and asked the NGOs to submit evidence they claim they have about their allegations.


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