Quelle: Welcome! Initiative Croatia 31.01.17
On Tuesday, the Welcome! Initiative and Are you Syrious? presented the Report on Illegal and Forced Push Backs of Refugees from the Republic of Croatia in which they warned against the violations of Croatia’s national and international legal obligations and of the inviolability of human life and dignity as universal human values.
The report was created after interviews with approximately fifty refugees located in Serbian camps conducted in December 2016 and January 2017. The activists conducting the interviews received information that families and individuals of all ages, mainly from Afghanistan but from other countries as well, albeit in smaller numbers, are being pushed back from Croatian territory. Many of these people have on several occasions (in different locations in Croatia) explicitly sought international protection or asylum.
In the collected testimonies, the refugees reported being exposed to several hours, in some cases even several days, of detention in police stations, without an interpreter, police officials overstepping their authority, different forms of verbal and physical abuse, threats and mocking by police officials, forced signing of documents in Croatian or in another language foreign to the signer (English, Persian, Romanian, etc.), confiscation of valuables and personal belongings and finally expulsions despite them explicitly seeking asylum in Croatia.
Due to the aforementioned, the Welcome! Initiative and Are You Syrious? ask for the immediate end to violent and illegal returns of refugees from the Croatian territory, urgent implementation of a thorough investigation into illegal and violent push backs of refugees across the Croatian border and sanctioning of violent police officials and responsible persons at the Ministry of the Interior, and the return of illegally pushed-back refugees who still wish to seek asylum in Croatia, to the Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers in Zagreb and Kutina, and the continuation of the application procedures for international protection.
Last week, the Slovenian Parliament adopted a Foreigners Act which, in certain situations, allows for the complete closure of borders and the expulsion of persons who have entered Slovenian territory illegally, regardless of whether they express their intent to seek asylum in Slovenia. All those who seek international protection in this way will be returned, which is contrary to the Geneva Convention on refugees. The Slovenian Government insists that the adoption of such measures is necessary, while many groups and organizations for the protection of human rights emphasize that this is a violation of international law. Amnesty International described those amendments as “a big step backwards for human rights in Slovenia”.
Likewise, works are currently under way on the Slovenia-Croatia border to remove barbed wire, but only in order to put up a new panel fence. Out of a total of 193 kilometres of wire placed on the border with Croatia, 33 kilometres will be replaced in tourist and populated areas such as Hum na Sutli.
On Wednesday, a number of the world’s NGOs invited the European Union and its Member States to provide more opportunities for legal and safe passage of refugees. The reason behind this action is precisely the increasing number of people in need of international protection who are facing numerous obstacles and are dying on their way to safety. Unfortunately, access to the so-called Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is available only to those who manage to reach the physical borders of a certain state. EU States have at their disposal a variety of ways to make the refugee routes legal and safer, among other things, by implementing relocation programs and programs for humanitarian admission, humanitarian visas and public sponsorships, as well as more effective ways to implement family reunification that involve extended family. In addition to that, there are also various exchange programs and scholarships that allow further education for the refugees. The organizations warn that, without available legal alternatives and with increasingly stringent border controls that extend far beyond European territory, those who need international protection are often forced to use irregular methods to reach EU territory. It was precisely the lack of legal ways to arrive to Europe that led to the increase in smuggling which puts refugees at risk of abuse and exploitation. Likewise, the organizations have emphasized that the expansion of safe and legal ways of arrival should in no way be used as an excuse to create additional barriers for those who arrive in other ways.