Detention of Chechens, continuation of pushbacks and undignified conditions for people on the move


This week, the Croatian police detained a group of some fifty Chechens. The Ministry of the Interior did not inform the media or civil society organizations of the reason for their detention nor whether the persons were granted access to asylum procedures. In the meantime, we have unofficially learned that the detainees include a group of ten asylum seekers who had until recently been accommodated in the Porin Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers in Zagreb. Isa Daduev, a representative of the Assembly of Chechens in Europe, told RSE Kavkaz that the Chechens in detention are not allowed to contact their families nor attorneys, that the police are using force, and that the detainees are being pressured to withdraw their asylum applications. RSE subsequently announced that the detained Chechens were visited by representatives of the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia on November 8, and that they are reportedly suspected of involvement in extremism. Given that cases of pushbacks and deportations of Chechens have become more frequent across Europe since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, it is difficult to escape the impression that extremism, in this case, is being used as a politically convenient explanation for deporting people of “undesirable” ethnicity, regardless of the fact that this will endanger the lives of people fleeing the prospect of fighting Putin’s war.


Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior continues to issue a large number of return decisions, numerous people on the move are still temporarily residing in Zagreb, and the local authorities have yet to find a solution for meeting their basic needs – a roof over their heads, sanitary facilities, a hot meal, and warm and dry clothes. Ivana Perić wrote for Novosti about the situation that non-Ukrainian refugees and migrants, as well as homeless people in Zagreb, found themselves in. selma banich, a member of the Zagreb Sanctuary City (ZGU) and Transbalkan Solidarity (TS) initiatives, commented for the article: “The intensity with which the Ministry of the Interior issues seven-day return decisions increases the visibility of people without access to basic living conditions in public spaces. This is currently the case in Zagreb and Rijeka, to some extent in Ogulin and Pazin. An escalation can happen at any moment in such a situation, which may not be accidental. It can be seen as an attack by the state on local self-government units, with the aim of destabilising and shifting responsibility. People on the move are currently being used as cannon fodder in relation to Schengen on one hand, and for internal destabilisation on the other.”


Last Friday, the Ministry of the Interior announced the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of the independent monitoring mechanism for the protection of fundamental human rights in the conduct of police officers of the Ministry of the Interior in the area of ​​border protection, irregular migration, and international protection. The co-signatories of the Memorandum are the President of the Croatian Academy of Medical Sciences, Alemka Markotić, the President of the Croatian Academy of Legal Sciences, Anamarija Musa, Aziz Hasanović on behalf of the Center for Cultural Dialogue, Robert Markt on behalf of the Croatian Red Cross, and prof. dr. sc. Iris Goldner Lang, as an independent legal expert. Minister Božinović announced that the activities specified in the Memorandum will be carried out for a period of 18 months with automatic extension, through announced and unannounced visits from observers to police stations, police administrations of the Republic of Croatia, the external border, including the green border, border crossings with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the Republic of Serbia, as well as reception centres for asylum seekers and reception centres for foreigners. The Welcome! Initiative is eagerly awaiting the publication of the Memorandum in order to see first-hand whether the new Memorandum really does expand and specify the powers of the mechanism, or if it is just another attempt by the Ministry of the Interior to convince the European Commission of the mechanism’s effectiveness.


The new report by the Border Violence Monitoring Network proves that illegal pushbacks and inhumane treatment of people on the move in Croatia continue. Evidence suggests that physical violence during pushbacks has decreased, but people are often verbally abused and humiliated, locked into vans and driven around for several hours before being abandoned in the middle of the forest or mountains. In September, there were several cases of pushbacks of families with children, as well as unaccompanied children who were subjected to theft and physical violence. Many of these pushbacks allegedly happened with the help of Croatian citizens living near the border, as POMs reported seeing them call the police.


Hungary has decided to increase the height of its fence along the border with Serbia due to reports of an increase in pushbacks and violence by Hungarian authorities towards people on the move. According to a statement released on October 31, Hungary is implementing this measure “so that Europe does not have to bring back internal border controls.” According to estimates by the NGO KlikAktiv, almost 90,000 people have entered Serbia since the beginning of 2022. For them, Belgrade is a necessary but hostile layover city.


According to information from the EuroMed Rights Network, civil rescue ships have rescued more than 900 people in the Mediterranean but are facing increasing hostilities from the new pro-fascist Italian government. Between the end of October and early November, Italian authorities rescued an estimated total of 2,080 people from large wooden boats. After an agonizing week at sea due to the authorities denying them a safe port, refugees and other migrants from one out of four humanitarian rescue ships were finally allowed to disembark.

Two children were killed in an explosion on a boat in the Maltese SAR (search and rescue) zone, and a baby and 4 people went missing after two boats capsized off Lampedusa. Malta forcibly returned 23 people to Egypt.



  • On November 21, ECCHR is organizing an online discussion Challenging child pushbacks from Croatia and Slovenia. Contributors: Delphine Rodrik, Sandra Benčić, Miha Nabergoj, Almir Štrkljević and Aoife Nolan. The panel will be held in English and streamed live on Facebook.


Finally, some reading suggestions:

  • Text by Nidžara Ahmetašević and Klaudia Wieser – At the heart of Fortress Europe: A new study about Austria’s role in border externalization policies in the Balkans;
  • International Detention Coalition’s new global reportGaining Ground: Promising Practices to Reduce and End Immigration Detention;
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor – Refusing to turn away: human rights defenders working on the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers;
  • Report by Amnesty International – Latvia: Refugees and migrants arbitrarily detained, tortured and forced to ‘voluntarily’ return to their countries


We also congratulate Danka Derifaj and Jerko Bakotin, along with the rest of the Lighthouse Reports research team, on another important (yet unfortunately still foreign, not domestic) recognition – the German Human Rights Film Award 2022 in the magazine segments category for investigative work on violence against migrants at European borders.

Their work proved and denounced serious and systematic human rights violations against refugees at Croatian borders, i.e., the external border of the European Union, and we thank them for it!


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