Hidden cameras have captured Croatian police force engaging in “pushbacks” or collective expulsions of asylum seekers in a forest near Lohovo, in Bosnian territory.
Footages shared by the watchdog organization Border Violence Monitoring (BVM) revealed that there have been 54 incidents of migrants being pushed from Croatia back into Bosnia.
BVM said that these acts were in clear violation of the Geneva Convention on refugees, the EU charter of fundamental rights, and article 14 of the universal declaration of human rights.
BVM released the following statement:
“Although Croatia has signed a re-admission agreement with Bosnia, expulsions over the green border [the area in the woods where there are no official crossing points] do not follow any formal return procedures, so they cannot be justified by the agreement.
“It may be legal to return refugees to Bosnia in the event that they do not lodge an asylum application, but these deportations must take place at official border crossings and in the presence of Bosnian border guards, which is not the case.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s security minister, Dragan Mektić, said that the conduct of the Croatian police was “a disgrace for an EU country”.
According to the Croatian ministry of the interior, the officers did not commit any violation and they legally “deterred them from illegally entering Croatia” under article 13 of the Schengen border code.
The information and advocacy officer for the human rights group the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, András Léderer, stated that pushing back people across the green border without due procedure was “definitely not in accordance with the Schengen acquis”.
“These practices breach the prohibition of collective expulsion, enshrined in article 4 of protocol 4 of the European convention on human rights, and might even pose security risks to the EU,” Léderer said. “If the migrants entered Croatia before the videos were taken, then in the case of each migrant an individual decision should have been made by the Croatian authorities against which an effective remedy must have been available to the migrant.”