Croatian police are "viciously" beating some migrants and pushing them back to Bosnia without giving them a chance to seek asylum, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday. The report adds to numerous accounts of Croatian border police brutality against migrants who have tried to enter the EU member state this year.
More than 20,000 people, mostly from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, have trudged across the Balkans since January in a bid to slip through Croatia and move on into other European countries. While most manage to continue north, many have been thwarted by border police who are stepping up patrols.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 20 people who reported being detained by Croatian police and deported back to neighboring Bosnia without due process. Sixteen interviewees, including women and children, said police "beat them with batons, kicked and punched them, stole their money, and either stole or destroyed their mobile phones," HRW noted.
"Croatia has an obligation to protect asylum seekers and migrants," Lydia Gall, a HRW researcher, said in a statement. "Instead, the Croatian police viciously beat asylum seekers and pushed them back over the border." The findings "confirm mounting evidence of abuse at Croatia's external borders," the New York-based watchdog added. It called on Zagreb, which has repeatedly denied police abuse against migrants, to launch investigations.
In September, the Council of Europe urged Croatia to probe similar allegations that nearly a third of 2,500 migrants expelled by Croatia this year have reported violence and theft at the hands of police.