Activists of Are You Syrious? and the Welcome! Initiative visited Serbia (Belgrade, Šid, and other locations) several times in the past month. They conducted interviews with approximately thirty refugees who are currently located in refugee camps or in abandoned warehouses in Belgrade. This helped them to gain broader and deeper insight into numerous ways in which illegal and forced push backs are conducted, thus evidencing non-compliance with national and international legal obligations of Croatia, as well behaviour contrary to universal human values such as the inviolability and protection of human life and dignity. Note that this is just a small sample from the experience of our activists and our concern is that the number of illegal and violent push backs is much higher.
According to our findings, the police have pushed back families and individuals of all ages, mainly from Afghanistan, but also from Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and other countries, from the Croatian territory. Many of these people have on several occasions (in different locations in Croatia) explicitly sought international protection or asylum, sometimes even in a self-abasing way (by begging and kissing the hands and feet of police officers).
In order to preempt replies that these are regular readmissions, we emphasize that these are not official returns of refugees from Croatia; they are furtive illegal push backs from Croatia to Serbia carried out by Croatian police, with the use of violence and humiliation.
The people interviewed after the dangerous crossing of the Croatia-Serbia border (whereby they expose themselves to hypothermia, choking, abuse, human trafficking) experienced systematic verbal and physical abuse instead of exercising their right of access to international protection in one of the EU Member States. The violence occurs on Croatian territory along the border, as well as deep within the country.
The individuals we spoke to told us that they did not experience such violence even in their countries of origin (countries they often had to leave precisely because of violence).
According to refugee testimonies, after entering Croatian territory, they come into contact with the Croatian police in different locations. Some of them came to police stations and the Zagreb Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (former Hotel Porin) by themselves with the aim of seeking international protection.
The police stations in which our interviewees sought asylum are located in Zagreb, Zaprešić, Đakovo and Vinkovci. Several other stations were mentioned in the interviews, but we were unable to determine their locations. The refugees also mentioned:
The Welcome! Initiative and Are You Syrious? ask for the following:
More in the report: