Ministry says accusations in Guardian article false, dangerous

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14.05.2020.

VELIKA KLADUSA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 26: An Iranian migrant child Asal is seen across the iron barricade giving a flower to a Bosnian border police officer, on October 26, 2018 near Velika Kladusa town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hundreds of migrants including women and children continue their waiting around the border crossing between Bosnia and Croatia, to cross into neighboring Croatia, a member of the European Union. Samir Yordamovic / Anadolu Agency
Samir Yordamovic / Anadolu Agency via AFP

An Iranian migrant child Asal is seen across the iron barricade giving a flower to a Bosnian border police officer, on October 26, 2018 near Velika Kladusa town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hundreds of migrants including women and children continue their waiting around the border crossing between Bosnia and Croatia, to cross into neighboring Croatia, a member of the European Union.

The Croatian Ministry of Interior on Wednesday dismissed allegations in the Guardian about Croatian police humiliating migrants on religious grounds, stressing that the allegations are absurd as well as dangerous because they have been made in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

The ministry says the Guardian article is yet another in a series of "unfounded accusations against Croatian police regarding the treatment of illegal migrants."

Croatian police are allegedly spray-painting the heads of asylum seekers with crosses when they attempt to cross the border from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Guardian said on Tuesday.

"Either the Croatian authorities committing these acts are using spray paint to identify and humiliate repeat border crossers or, more worryingly, they are using this as a tactic to psychologically traumatise these men - the majority of whom are Muslim - with a religious symbol," a human rights activist was quoted as saying.

Croatia has good and friendly relations with Islamic community

"Croatian police are being accused of xenophobia in a pretentious way, with  biased and sensationalist articles, and it is particularly absurd that such accusations are levelled at the police of a country that has very good and friendly relations with the Islamic community," the ministry said.

It described as particularly worrying and deplorable the fact that the article, which it said evidently incites religious intolerance, was published during the month of Ramadan.

As in the case of all previous accusations, the ministry has conducted checks and established that "in the area along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian police did not undertake any activity towards migrants or report their movement towards the Croatian border at the time in question."

The ministry said that it considered the article "yet another in a series of usual accusations, prompted by Croatian police's systematic implementation of measures to protect the EU's external border and not tolerate illegal entries." It also recalled that Croatia was constantly exposed to pressure by various interest groups whose aim it said was to weaken measures in force on the Croatian border.

The ministry goes on to say that the non-governmental organisation No Name Kitchen, whose activist is quoted in the Guardian article, in December 2018 led an attempt by several hundred migrants to forcibly cross the border into Croatia from Serbia, which was prevented in coordination with Serbian police.

As for the Border Violence Monitoring watchdog, the ministry says that on its web site the NGO has been regularly publishing accusations over migrant treatment "which do not contain any information or data that could be checked, just like in the case of the Guardian article."

Describing the article as unprofessional, the ministry says that what is not reported about is the fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border with Croatia, there are thousands of migrants attempting to illegally enter the EU, using all means available, including false testimonies against police officers.

Biased reporting is also evidenced by the fact that numerous cases of violence among migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, attacks on Bosnian security services and operations by Croatian police to rescue migrants are not reported about, the ministry says.