zimski tranzitni centar-slavonski brod-izbjeglice.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ ik

Croatian nongovernmental organisations on Wednesday presented a report in which they conclude, based on observations and interviews, that Croatian authorities have been forcibly detaining refugees in closed-off sections of the refugee transit centre at Slavonski Brod, thus systematically violating their human rights, and called for immediately ensuring free movement for those people.

There are no publicly available data on the number of persons who were detained against their will in closed-off sections of the Slavonski Brod camp, but daily reports by NGOs show that at least 600 people were physically detained by the Croatian police there, reads the report Iva Marcetic presented on behalf of its authors at a news conference at the Human Rights House.

Since observers, media and a vast majority of volunteers were not granted access to the camp, the report is based on observations and interviews conducted by independent activists at Zagreb's central train station with people who had passed through the camp, as well as with people in the camp, whom they interviewed via social networks.

The refugees' testimonies reveal how decisions resulting from political agreements on the closing of borders have affected the lives of people seeking international protection as well as the arbitrariness, bias and unlawfulness of decisions made by Austrian, Slovenian and Croatian authorities, the authors of the report say.

Among those decisions, Marcetic singled out refugee profiling which she said had resulted in mass detention of people, and which she said had been systematically conducted by the Austrian, Slovenian and Croatian police forces using services of unauthorised and unprofessional staff, such as interpreters.

People detained in closed-off parts of the camp did not have access to basic sanitary infrastructure and were without constant legal, medical and psychological help, it was said.

The authors of the report also warn that people detained in the camp were not given any information as to the reason why they were being returned and detained, on their current status or what would happen with them next, nor were they informed of any legal specifics, while access to the closed-off parts of the camp was granted only to police staff, some members of the Croatian Red Cross and several UNICEF members.

Pointing to the discriminatory practice, the authors of the report say that people who until recently legally entered countries along the Balkan migration route were now being stopped on their journey because of, for instance, their skin colour, language and country they come from.

The authors of the report and the NGOs "Welcome" and "Are You Syrious", whose representatives also attended the news conference, warned that the fate of forcibly detained refugees was not known and that they were literally "imprisoned", with asylum being imposed on them as the only option to flee a repressive and dehumanised environment.

The associations warned that the new way of making decisions on people's destinies did not exculpate the Croatian authorities from violation of human rights, disregard for laws and international law.

They also demanded that the volunteers who had been working with refugees for more than six months and associations for legal aid be urgently granted access to the closed-off parts of the camp in Slavonski Brod and that people detained there be granted free movement and relocated to an empty accommodation centre in Zagreb and that new centres be opened to accommodate them, where they would be able to make an informed decision on their future.

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