Croatian police accused of pushing Afghan refugees back to Bosnia

While the allied forces struggled to evacuate thousands of refugees from Kabul amid threats of Islamic State retaliation, the Croatian police are allegedly robbing and pushing back to Bosnia dozens of Afghans who have left their country for fear of タリバン reprisals.

The Guardian has collected testimonies from Afghan asylum seekers and obtained an exclusive report from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) documenting about 60 illegal pushbacks allegedly perpetrated between 16 August and 29 August by the Croatian police against Afghan families in Bosnia attempting to reach Europe.

Any pushback is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva conventions and EU legislation, as prohibiting an individual from the right to apply for asylum is an infringement of human rights.

The alleged pushbacks have all been perpetrated following the announcement of Taliban control of the government and as countries such as the US, イギリス, Italy and Spain were struggling to allow Afghan refugees a safe passage to leave the country.

According to the victims, the pushbacks included brutal and violent behaviour, degrading treatment and theft and destruction of personal belongings. Half of the Afghans pushed back were minors, そして 16 people claimed that the Croatians would impede their asylum request.

“We were pushed back 12 times at the Croatian border. They stole our money and phones,” says Zihaul al-Haqq, 25, originally from Baghlan, in northern アフガニスタン, who fled the country with his wife Malika, 22, に 2016. “We were pushed back the last time between 20 そして 21 of August. Now Afghanistan is entirely under Taliban control, and we’ve been on the run for five and a half years. We’re very tired.”

Afghans are currently the second most prevalent nationality on the Balkan route, one of the most perilous passages toward Europe. It takes them through Bulgaria, then North Macedonia or Serbia, then Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia, from where they can finally reach Italy or Austria. Hundreds of Afghan families are blocked at the border between Croatia and Bosnia, in Bihać and Bosanska Bojna. They live with their children in abandoned buildings without water or electricity. Most fled Afghanistan in the last five years since the Taliban began conquering rural areas, carrying out bomb attacks and dozens of summary executions.

“The Taliban murdered several members of my family,” says Abbas, 18, who fled Ghazni in 2018, after the Taliban launched an assault resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. “I cannot return to Afghanistan. I’ve been stuck here for months. A week ago the Croatians stopped me near Rijeka, beat me and stole my phone, before pushing me back to Bosnia.”

Accusations of pushbacks and violence perpetrated by the Croatian police are not new. 長年, charities have denounced the abuses, and in several cases the European Commission asked Croatia, an EU member state, for clarification. Last April, a Guardian investigation reported that the Croatians sexually abused an Afghan woman who was allegedly held at knifepoint and forced to strip by a Croatian border police officer during a search of a group of migrants. The European Commission urged Zagreb to investigate the case and described the incident as a “serious alleged criminal action”.

The Croatian police and Croatian interior ministry denied any wrongdoing, stating they were “determined to work together with the EU to prevent a recurrence of the uncontrolled major illegal migration movements we have faced in the past”.

“Our experiences from the migration crisis in 2015, when many migrants introduced themselves as Syrian citizens thinking that this information would provide them with ‘easier asylum treatment’, are a lesson learned that we take into account all the time,” they added.

In the meantime, talks are under way in Brussels as the EU prepares for one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises in recent history. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, まで 500,000 Afghans could flee by year-end, as thousands are already on the move. Those who have recently fled the Taliban will join thousands of other Afghans who left the country months or years ago, as well as asylum seekers from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa who attempt the Balkan route.

According to the UN migration agency (IOM), there will soon be more Afghan asylum seekers in the Balkans than those from any other country. しかしながら, the message from Afghanistan’s neighbours and much of Europe has been that Afghan refugees are not welcome. Pakistan is completing a wall along its notoriously porous border with Afghanistan; Turkey has built a 93-mile (150km) wall along its border with Iran; Greece has also just completed a border wall, and Croatia is allegedly continuing to push them back to Bosnia.

“The denial of the right to seek international protection for Afghans fleeing the desperate situation in their home country is of particular concern”, says Charlotte Slente, DRC secretary general. “We are calling for the EU to ensure dignified reception at the borders and not least access to the asylum procedure, rather than compelling member states at the EU’s external borders to deter arrivals and turn a blind eye to rights violations.”

According to the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), an independent thinktank serving as a resource for government officials, の間に 2008 そして 2018, EU member states have repatriated about 70,000 Afghans.

火曜日に, home affairs ministers of EU member countries will discuss a common strategy toward Afghan refugees. Brussels has allocated funds for Afghanistan, but it is still unclear whether the policy will apply to those who decided to leave Afghanistan.

“The asylum system has come under enormous pressure in recent years,” says Antonio Giustozzi, a visiting professor at King’s College London, who served in the UN assistance mission to Afghanistan. “If the number of Afghans increases, pressure against the asylum system might become unbearable in European countries and the entire asylum system might be endangered, leaving those who are really risking their lives dangerously exposed.”

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