Serbian NGOs Criticise Croatia for Its Alleged Behaviour Towards Migrants

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According to Serbian NGOs, more than a hundred migrants have been forcibly returned from Croatia to Serbia.

In the last six months, more than a hundred migrants have been forcibly returned from Croatia to Serbia, and migrants and refugees’ human rights are being systematically violated by Croatoa, said NGOs from Belgrade, reports Večernji List on January 28, 2017.

“They regularly report that Croatian police hit and harassed them, took away everything they had and that their rights and obligations were not explained in a language they can understand”, said Vladimir Sjekloća from the Centre for Crisis Policy and Response in Belgrade.

“If this is the European Union, then I do not want to leave Serbia”, said 17-year-old Naim from Afghanistan, explaining that he tried to reach Austria through Croatia, but was returned back to Serbia. He said that the Croatian police had beaten him. “The officers tried to break our fingers. You can see what they did with a baton”, said the migrant from Afghanistan.

Complaints made by migrants, that they were denied the right to seek asylum in Croatia, are confirmed by non-governmental organizations from Belgrade and Zagreb. “We have 114 recorded instances of the so-called push-back from Croatia. These are situations when people are being illegally returned to Serbia”, said Sjekloća.

Illustrating all the ways in which migrants try to cross the border, Serbian media reported that the police in Apatin in Serbia had found a group of 25 Afghan nationals who wanted to walk across the frozen Danube river in order to reach Croatia and the European Union.

In detention centres in Serbia, there are currently about 6,000 beds, but estimates say that there are another 1,000 to 1,200 migrants who live elsewhere. For example, several hundred migrants are currently residing in abandoned warehouses.

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Management Christos Stylianidis announced last week in Belgrade that Serbia would get from the EU additional four million euros for providing assistance to migrants and refugees. He praised the Serbian government for its management of the migrant crisis. The EU assistance will be used to feed the refugees and migrants in detention centres across Serbia and improve conditions of accommodation.

Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepić called on NGOs to bring evidence to the police about the alleged mistreatment of migrants, in order to jointly solve the problem if it really exists, since the police had no such information. Croatian NGOs, the Welcome Initiative and Are You Syrious’ Association, called on the Croatian police earlier to immediately stop forcibly expelling refugees from Croatian territory.

Interior Minister Orepić said that the accusations were not true. He added that some of the migrants were illegally crossing the Croatian border and avoiding filing requests for asylum in Croatia because Croatia would then become the first EU country in which they would be registered and to which they could later be returned from Western European countries which they really want to reach.


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