Migrants Facing Oppressive, Systematic And Violent Resistance On The Croatian Boarder

Overwhelming evidence of Croatian police exercising unnecessary and unprovoked violence towards migrants has made this ongoing issue hard to ignore. Therefore, why are the UN and EU continuing to praise and fund this inhumane method of patrolling the longest land border in the European Union? The answer to this question is nearly found in the question itself. With this border being the longest external land border, along with its relative closeness to migrant paths, it has seen a massive influx of migrant in recent years and especially 2019. This increased activity has strained the Croatian border patrol to its limits, thus, unfortunately, it is not surprising that they have fallen back on violence as a way of controlling the masses. Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, appears to understand and shockingly be okay with this use of violence to eject migrants remarking that “a little bit of force is needed when doing pushbacks”.

With this willingness by the Croatian authorities to ignore the abuse taking place it is not surprising that they are now trying to control the flow of information in and out of the border. It is now common practice for migrants to be forced to turn over the phones for destruction. This came following a series of video leaks which showed the rampant abuse of migrants taking place. This crackdown on media coming out of the border can only be considered a red flag considering the reports of violence and humiliation that take place. Examples of which include migrants being forced to undress and walk back across the border to Bosnia, unprovoked beatings and theft by officers.

Therefore, with all this abuse, it is unprecedented that, in December of 2018, the European Commission announced that is was going to grant 6.8 million euros to Croatia to “strengthen border surveillance and law enforcement capacity,” including a “monitoring mechanism” to ensure that border measures are “proportionate and are in full compliance with fundamental rights and EU asylum laws.”. The findings of said “monitoring mechanism” is due to be reported in early 2020. In the meantime, denunciation of the Croatian border policies has steadily streamed in. The likes of Human Rights Watch, United Nations Special rapporteur, Council of Europe and Amnesty International have all highlighted the failings and abuses of the current policy with concerns over human rights violation also being voiced.

Although the current situation of these migrants is undoubtedly bleak, it is not beyond hope nor help. One of the most promising breakthroughs is the desire for change, regarding the current policies of enforcement, comes from the border police themselves. A growing discontent for the way in which they are directed to treat the migrants cumulated in a letter that was sent anonymously to Lora Vidovic, the public ombudswoman of Croatia, who went public with it. In the wake of this, there has been a palpable shift in public opinion which leaves many, both migrants and locals alike, with the hope that substantial change is possible.

Patrick Mills-Munday