EU Border Guards Use ‘a Little Bit of Force’ to Push Migrants Back to Bosnia, Croatia’s President Admits
Reports of “push-backs” at the Croatian – Bosnian border, which is also an external border for the European Union, have surfaced a number of times over the past few months.
Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, has admitted that border guards on the Croatian – Bosnian border are using “a little bit of force” to repulse migrants trying to enter the European Union there.
Croatian officials have kept denying that force is being used at the newest EU member’s border with neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina to keep out migrants ever since in May 2019, Swiss broadcaster SRF showed footage of illegal deportations.
“When someone travels through this difficult terrain, it’s normal for them to get scrapes, bruises and injuries,” Croatian President Grabar-Kitarovic told local journalists during a visit to the border earlier this month.
“Next time you hear stories about the brutality of our police officers, you should think twice. They are not violent, I can guarantee that,” she added.
Croatia’s leader has been insisting that her country’s police were not pushing migrants back over the border with Bosnia since the migrants in question were not refugees anyway but economic immigrants.
In a recent interview with SRF during a visit to Switzerland, however, the Croatian President admitted that the border guards were using force to repulse migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I have spoken with the interior minister, the chief of police and officers on the ground, and they assured me they have not been using excessive force. Of course, a little bit of force is needed when doing push-backs,” Grabar-Kitarovic said, as cited by DW.
Croatia joined the European Union as its 28th member in July 2013, and has been trying to become part of the borderless Schengen Area as well.
There have been reports in recent months that Croatian border guards are using force when tackling the influx of migrants from the Middle East through the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another Balkan EU border with reports of guards using force to repulse migrants has been the one between EU member state Bulgaria and Turkey.
Croatia’s Interior Ministry has formally denied using “push-backs” to keep migrants coming from Bosnia from entering the European Union.
Amnesty International has been raising alarm over the reports of the use of force on the Croatian – Bosnian border.
“By prioritizing border control over compliance with international law, European governments are not just turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but also funding their activities,” the NGO said in March.
“Under international law and EU law, collective evictions and push-backs are always illegal,” Jelena Sesar, a researcher at Amnesty International, now commented for DW, describing the Croatian President’s admission as “shocking.”
“Croatia…has the strongest border police in this part of Europe,” Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic stated during a visit in Berlin in June 2018.
(Banner image: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Twitter)