Croatia Returned Refugees to Bosnia – A minister in a Bosnian canton bordering Croatia said the EU member state had forcibly returned over 7,000 migrants and refugees to Bosnia last year, asking why his own country had not done the same to its neighbours.
“Based on the statements of migrants, we have about 7,210 migrants who have been returned from the territory of Croatia,” Nermin Kljajic, Interior Minister of the Una-Sana Canton, told a Security Committee session of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the larger of the two Bosnian entities.
He asked why Bosnia had not in turn returned any migrants to Serbia or Montenegro, from where many of them had entered Bosnia on their way to the European Union.
The largest number of illegal migrants are thought to reach Bosnia across the porous eastern borders with Serbia and Montenegro.
There are currently about 9,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Bosnia and most are concentrated in four migrant centres in the northwest of the country near Croatia in Una-Sana Canton.
Croatian police have been accused of systematically violating the human rights of migrants on the Bosnian border. Media reports describe the politics of pushbacks and anti-migrant violence as routine.
Croatian authorities deny such practices. Davor Bozinovic, Minister of Police, on several occasions, most recently in October, said the police were not doing anything illegal.
However, dozens of migrants returned to Bosnia from Croatia, and even Slovenia, have told BIRN that the Croatian police used violence on them.
“They caught us when we tried to enter Croatia. They took our phones and money. They also took my shoes. They hit me on the back with batons,” Saddam Hussain Ghuman, a Pakistani migrant, told BIRN in August last year.
Abdul, a migrant from Morocco, told BIRN a similar story in August when he was on his way to Camp Lipa in northwest Bosnia.
“I got to Slovenia. We were, it seemed, 20 kilometres from Trieste, Italy. But they caught us. The Slovenian police first took us back to Croatia, and then the Croatian police to Bosnia. They took everything from us, both money and mobile phones. The Croatian police hit me with a rubber stick,” Abdul said.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, reported her concerns to the European Court of Human Rights on January 11 about the forcible return of migrants to Bosnia from Croatia without a formal asylum procedure.
Mijatovic said available information indicated the existence of a well-established practice of collectively returning migrants from Croatia, “which is carried out outside of any formal procedure and without identifying persons or assessing their individual situation”.
Based on her observations and numerous independent reports, Mijatovic noted widespread allegations of ill-treatment of migrants, as well as a lack of prompt, effective and independent investigations, resulting in impunity for law enforcement officials.