Migrants use their mobile phones at a factory hall-turned migrants’ facility in Bihac, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on Wednesday. Associated Press
ZAGREB: The European Union is “complicit” in Croatian police’s “violent pushbacks” of thousands of asylum seekers because it is funding border security in the Balkan country, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
Last year some 25,000 migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa carved a new route through the Balkans in a bid to slip through EU member state Croatia and move on to other Western European countries.
While most managed to continue onwards, several thousand were thwarted by Croatian border police and are now marooned in migrant centres in neighbouring Bosnia.
On Wednesday Amnesty International accused Croatian border authorities of “deliberate pushbacks and collective expulsions − often accompanied by violence and intimidation”.
The EU is complicit because it has “continued to allocate significant funds to assist Croatia in its border security infrastructure,” Amnesty said.
“European governments are not just turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but also funding their activities,” the watchdog added.
It warned of a “growing humanitarian crisis on the edge of the European Union.”
People fleeing war and persecution “are beaten and robbed by the Croatian police and forcibly pushed back to legal limbo, left at the mercy of a failing asylum system in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the report said.
“In spite of these appalling practices at the border, the European Union has continued to allocate significant funds to assist Croatia in its border security infrastructure. The EU has also willfully ignored the failures of the European asylum system that make these journeys necessary,” the report said.
Nearly one third of migrants interviewed by Amnesty in Bosnia described violence at the hands of Croatian police who blocked their path.
They recounted beatings, as well as having their documents destroyed and other possessions stolen, Amnesty added.
Rights groups have repeatedly accused Croatian police of abusive tactics.
Thousands of migrants have been stuck in Bosnia as they seek to move on toward Western Europe. migrants mostly travel illegally with the help of people smugglers.