Croatia "forcing asylum seekers back to Serbia" - HRW

The Croatian police are forcing asylum seekers back to Serbia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

Source: Tanjug, hrw.org
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(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)
(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)

According to the NGO, in some cases the police are using violence without giving the asylum seekers an opportunity to lodge claims for protection.

Tanjug is reporting this on Friday citing Croatian agency Hina, which said the HRW report was based on interviews with ten refugees from Afghanistan.

A statement issued by HRW said the Afghans, including two unaccompanied children, described being forced back to Serbia since November 2016 after being apprehended in Croatian territory.

"They said they were denied the right to lodge asylum claims even though they said they wanted to seek asylum. Nine said the officers kicked and punched them, and all said that the officers took personal items, including money or mobile phones," the organization said.

“Accounts of Croatia’s shocking and abusive treatment of asylum seekers at its border are unworthy of an EU state. Authorities in Zagreb need to make sure that all officials are doing their duty to protect asylum seekers and not violently forcing them back to Serbia," said Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch Lydia Gall.

"In four cases, asylum seekers described the uniforms and insignia worn by the men who forcibly returned them that match those worn by Croatian police. In three other cases, asylum seekers told Human Rights Watch that law enforcement officials introduced themselves as Croatian police and wore matching uniforms," HRW said on its website, adding:

"In one case, an asylum seeker described the uniforms as 'very dark, like black', and in another, the asylum seeker described police vehicles. One asylum seeker was unable to give a detailed description of uniforms or insignia."

Croatian authorities should investigate allegations that officials have engaged in abuses against asylum seekers and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said, adding that they on December 20 wrote to Croatia’s Interior Ministry "informing officials of the findings and requesting comment but has yet to receive a response."

“Croatia’s actions are putting asylum seekers and migrants at risk and flouting its legal obligations. The European Commission should press Zagreb to comply with its obligations under EU and refugee law, investigate alleged abuses and provide meaningful access to asylum and fair procedures for those on its territory and at its borders," Gall said.

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