• Despite Warning and Appeals, No Significant Changes for Those Seeking Safety

    According to the data of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs (MUP), in 2017 1,887 people, mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey, applied for international protection. Out of that number, 211 people received international protection, and 311 were returned from another EU Member State country based on the Dublin Decree. At present, there are about 430 people in the reception centers for asylum seekers.

    On Wednesday last week the Welcome Initiative! and organizations: Center for Peace Studies, Are you Syrious?, and No-name Kitchen presented their fourth report on the illegal and violent expulsion of refugees from Croatia. They have warned that, given the frequency and patterns of police behavior, we cannot characterize it as isolated and sporadic cases of illegal expulsion as well as of benign “deterrence.” Police behavior, by all means, represents planned and systematic measures of deprivation of liberty without a legal basis, the denial of access to international protection and violation of the non-refoulement principles. They also stressed that the UNHCR Serbia in 2017 recorded 3242 cases of unlawful expulsion of refugees from Croatia, where many refugees claim that they were denied access to international protection and are routinely abused. Thus, Croatia has become the country with the highest number of expulsions in the region. Thus Croatia’s policy of the expulsion of refugees proves to be worse than the one of Hungary.

    Ministry of the Internal Affairs (MUP), as usual, denies prior stated,  and at the same time shows no evidence that such action had not occurred. Furthermore, MUP is trying to shift responsibility to the refugees, but also to organizations and institutions that have pointed out the violence. Even on the occasion of the thematic session on the denial of international protection in the Republic of Croatia of the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Policies and National Security held on Thursday, the MUP continued its silence and did not respond where were the missing video recordings of violent expulsions of refugees. The panel was also attended by the Ombudswoman Lora Vidović, who repeated the conclusions from the letter sent to the State Attorney of the Republic of Croatia (DORH), as well as the Ombudswoman for Children Helena Pirnat Dragičević. She pointed out that the state is facing a severe problem if it is true that the police have been returning children without taking into consideration child’s interest. She added that it makes her fearful if the state perceives migrant children as a threat.

    The UN rapporteur warns that people who are engaged in the protection of refugees are exposed to threats and criminalization of their work and he stressed that states have an obligation to protect them. Specifically, by presenting their latest report, Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the Status of Human Rights Defenders, said those who work in the realm of the protection the rights of people on the move face unprecedented threats and limitations as well as the ever-present disqualification and criminalization. According to the study, organizations that work in the realm of the protection of the rights of refugees face multiple barriers, mainly because of restrictions on access to people, criminalization and stigmatization, and threats to non-state actors such as organized crime or government entities providing services to people on the move.

    FRA – The EU Human Rights Agency in its report points out that border crossings in some Member States, such as Croatia, France, and Poland, remain demanding for migrants, as they have been returned from these countries without the ability to seek international protection. Pushbacks and refusal to asylum seekers to enter are just some of the facing challenges for migrants trying to enter or travel across the EU. Winter conditions also make it difficult for migrants, says FRA.

    According to the IOM data, 414 people were killed in the Mediterranean, while 10 114 refugees across the Mediterranean came to Europe this year. More than 50% of them arrived in Italy, while others arrived in Greece and Spain. In the same period and at the same destinations last year, 16 806 people arrived, while 2016 reached 116,005. This is another indication that the European Union has not yet provided safe and legal routes for people looking for safety.

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