Croatia: UN calls for end to migrant pushbacks by Police

Croatia: UN calls for end to migrant pushbacks by Police

The United Nations announced that the Croatian police continue to push back migrants crossing the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina on their path to Western European countries.

The UN Mission to BiH called for urgent action to end violent pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, including minors, along the Croatian border with BiH.

According to a report, on 2 April 2021 UN and NGO teams encountered a group of 50 men walking close to the official border crossing with Croatia in the direction of the city of Bihać at the Una-Sana Canton. The men were visibly exhausted, in need of clothes and shoes, and had wounds on their bodies. UN emergency teams provided food, clothing, shoes and hygiene items, while NGO medical teams provided urgent medical assistance to 25 of them.

The men stated that while crossing the border they had had their belongings taken away from them, including their mobile phones and money, and been beaten with wooden sticks and were forcibly returned to the territory of BiH.

This is not the first time the international community reacts to similar occurrences. A few months ago, Croatian authorities were under fire after several migrants were pushed back in BiH bearing injuries. They said the police had intercepted them, they were beaten and had to hand over all their belongings to the officers. The pictures at the time show the migrants bearing cross-shaped injuries on their heads.

The UN recalls that pushbacks and collective expulsions are prohibited under international and EU law, condemning in the strongest terms the use of violence against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees at any border. “We urge the concerned States to investigate the incident that took place on the 2nd of April and for all perpetrators to be appropriately sanctioned.”

This alarming and recurrent situation highlights the need for migration and asylum policy and governance to be improved, but also for humane and integrated rights-based practices to be implemented, not least during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina have seen a significant increase in mixed migration movements, with over 70,000 people having entered the country since 2017 and with over 4,000 people currently settled in official reception facilities. Meanwhile, an estimated 1700 persons reside outside of these facilities. In violation of the prohibition of collective expulsion, pushbacks of migrants exiting Bosnia and Herzegovina have been regularly reported, including of families with children. In 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants expressed deep concern over ‘the repeated and ongoing disproportionate use of force against migrants in pushback operations.’  /ibna