"Welcome" initiative claims Croatian authorities used force against refugees

The "Welcome" initiative on Wednesday presented a report based on stories told at the Belgrade railway station by refugees en route to Austria and Germany who did not manage to pass the Balkan route and who claimed that "Croatian authorities conducted systematic violence and Croatian police used physical force against them," which is supported by photographs received from refugees.

Four activists of the "Welcome" initiative collected stories and interviews at the railway station in Belgrade from 11 - 26 January from refugees who, according to European regulations since November last year cannot enter European Union countries because they do not come from war-affected countries, that is, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

One activist told a press conference that between 200 and 500 refugees have been stranded at the railway station and bus terminal in Belgrade. The report was compiled based on accounts given by about one hundred refugees while the main part of the report is based on testimonies by five refugees from Morocco and one each from Somalia and Pakistan.

They said that they had attempted several times over the past few months to enter Croatia from Serbia, however, Croatia had sent them back each time because they did not have proper documents and they were now stranded in Belgrade.

They claimed that official interpreters in Croatia would make arbitrary decisions after conducting interviews with them. "They would identify themselves as Syrians, Iraqis or Afghans, however, the interpreters would tell them that they did not speak that dialect and that would be sufficient to have them returned to Serbia," one activist, Selma Banich, said, underscoring that this was racial discrimination and a violation of human rights.

Another activist, Tea Vidovic, said that they had advised former interior minister Ranko Ostojic that news was spreading that "prior to registration at the refugee centre in Slavonski Brod, Croatian police were, with the assistance of interpreters, separating refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq from the rest who were then detained for several hours, some up to 24 hours."

The activists assessed that despite the measures taken by the EU to slow down the influx of refugees to Europe, the migration would not stop and that harsher asylum legislation in EU countries was resulting in a domino effect in countries along the Balkan route.

The initiative appealed to European leaders to look for a more humane response and to use the mechanism of temporary protection that was designed in response to the mass influx of displaced persons seeking protection in Europe.

Last update: Wed, 03/02/2016 - 21:37
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