NGO releases footage of Croatian police escorting groups of migrants into BH territory


  • Mario Pušić



Hidden camera footage provided by BVP

The Border Violence Monitoring (BVM) NGO has released footage of Croatian police officers escorting migrants caught on Croatian territory, claiming the footage demonstrates illegal actions by the police. The authorities did not dispute the footage, but claim that everything shown in the videos was in accordance with Croatian laws.

Videos from a forest outside Lohovo near Bihać in Bosnia and Herzegovina made between 29 September and 10 October that were sent to the BVM, which forwarded the videos to the media asserting that they present proof of illegal deportation and violence against migrants by Croatian police, have flooded the public.

The Interior Ministry (MUP) did not dispute authenticity of the videos, but refuted the conclusions about illegal deportation and violence.

"As was the case with previous cases where verification was possible, the MUP verified the location where the video was made as well as activities of Croatian police. It concluded that the police acted in line with regulations in Lika-Senj County at the border with BH. This is not a case of 'illegal deportation of hundreds of migrants to BH,' but of the Croatian police implementing deterrence measures at the border with BH," reported the Interior Ministry.

Authors of the video, who wanted to remain anonymous, placed the camera in cardboard packaging that was placed in a concrete block on a dilapidated building near the migrant route. In 240 hours of footage, 24 cases of illegal deportation (or deterrence) were recorded during day, while 30 cases were recorded during night.

Asylum seeking

The BVM reported that the footage shows 91 Croatian policemen. They added that the footage shows some 350 migrants, including women and children, which Croatian police sent down a forest path that reportedly leads to Bihać. The footage also shows Croatian policemen armed with automatic weapons, pistols or nightsticks escorting the migrants. The audio shows policemen commanded the migrants to "walk in single file." Croatian policemen are shown carrying yellow bags or envelopes, with the BVM suspecting these contain disabled mobile telephones that were taken from the migrants. None of the videos show any beatings of the migrants, which many have complained about, but several situations could be described as violent, such as pushing migrants to start walking or hitting those at the end of the file who were not in line. Shots can be heard on recordings and photographs have been released showing empty casings of ammunition for HS-9 Tactical used by Croatian police.

Criminal responsibility

"According to firsthand testimonies, police is violent in approximately one in five cases of deportation in the Lohovo area. These deportations are illegal because they are not made at official border crossings and BH officials are not present. In addition, documents presented by different organizations imply that refugees' applications for asylum were rejected before they were deported," asserted the BVM.

"Croatian police acts in line with regulations and adheres to human rights standards. We decidedly refute claims of 'deportation of hundreds of migrants.' Uncontrolled entry of large numbers of people would turn Croatia into a hotspot, which the MUP will not allow, but will protect State borders using all measures and mechanisms at its disposal, in line national and EU regulations," reported the MUP.

It stressed that deterrence measures are defined in Article 13 of the Schengen Borders Code and are applicable to areas between two border crossings open for international traffic - in this case between Croatia and BH. These measures are legal and used by border police against persons who are trying to enter the territory illegally, rather than through border crossings.

Some 19,000 migrants have entered BH thus far and nobody knows how many have entered Croatia, but we know that approximately 7,500 have been caught, with only 979 calling for international protection from Croatia or getting the opportunity to do so. Others, like the people in the recordings, were returned to the country from which they came illegally. Commenting on the security situation on Friday, assistant chief of police Josip Ćelić refuted allegations that Croatian police is violent against migrants.

-Our police officers help children and adults with health issues and claims of brutality are absolutely unfounded because any officers engaged in such actions would be criminally processed. They abide by regulations and use legal means of coercion. Policemen did not cause injuries of migrants - said Josip Ćelić.

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version