Croatia investigates police violence against migrants

SARAJEVO, Bosnia (AP) – Croatia on Thursday opened an investigation into new allegations that members of its police force are carrying out violent and systematic refoulements of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to enter the country illegally from the Neighboring Bosnia.

The announcement came a day after the publication of video footage of men in uniform wearing balaclavas hitting groups of migrants on a porous segment of the Union’s 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border. European Union with Bosnia.

The footage was filmed during an 8-month collaborative investigation between journalists from different European news agencies, led by the non-profit group Lighthouse Reports. Participants included journalists from the German public broadcaster ARD and the Der Spiegel news site, the daily French Liberation and the Swiss broadcaster SRF.

Lighthouse Reports’ Klaas Van Dijken told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Thursday that from February to September this year, reporters filmed 11 suspected push-backs in Croatia, including drone footage of a policeman covering himself up. face with a balaclava before forcing at least 15 people across the border into Bosnia.

Van Dijken said Croatian whistleblowers told reporters that “these actions were part of a nationwide operation codenamed Corridor.” The hooded men filmed beating migrants wore standard Croatian police batons, but did not wear police badges or badges on their uniforms.

“The forensic examination of the video revealed that the men had equipment and uniforms compatible with a branch of the Croatian police called the Intervention Police,” Van Dijken added.

For years, human rights organizations have accused the Croatian police of brutality and illegal refoulements of migrants to Bosnia, which Croatia has always denied.

Bosnia, which still has not fully recovered from its brutal 1992-95 war, has become a bottleneck for thousands of migrants to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa several years ago, when other countries closed their borders to block migration routes through the Balkan Mountains.

Upon entering Bosnia, most migrants walk northwest to the border with Croatia, one of the last gateways to central and northern Europe.

Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said on Thursday that police had already set up a “special investigation team” to investigate the most recent allegations and accompanying video footage.

“The team is already on the ground and their task is to establish what happened, where it happened and who was involved,” said Bozinovic, adding: “there are a lot of questions to which you have to answer “.

Croatian authorities have announced similar investigations in the past, but said they did not reveal any signs of wrongdoing by police.

The EU’s top migration official, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, said on Thursday that some of the reports of alleged violence against migrants by Croatian police were “shocking” and she was “extremely concerned”.

“This needs to be investigated, but they seem to indicate some sort of orchestration of violence at our external borders,” Johansson said.

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Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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