The Guardian's Shaun Walker visited the western part of Bosnia, where he witnessed the stories of migrants who faced, as they say, Croatian police brutality in an attempt to cross that country's border. Some escape with their mobile phone smashed, while those less fortunate say they were beaten with sticks or attacked with dogs, reads the article.
According to the migrants' testimonies, the Croatian police is engaging in a systematic campaign of violence and theft against migrants and refugees who are attempting to find a route to western Europe through the country, reads Walker's article titled Refugees crossing from Bosnia beaten and robbed by Croatian police.
The Guardian spoke to dozens of men in the Bosnian border towns of Velika Kladusa and Bihac, who said they had been subjected to violence at the hands of Croatian police after crossing into the country.
“Every country we have been in we have had problems with police, but nothing like Croatian police. I don't mind which country we end up in. My daughter is sick, I just want to take her somewhere with good doctors,” said Rahim from Afghanistan adding they had no money to pay smugglers so they just keep walking during the night to cross the border.
“Last time we were five days in the forest, but then the police stopped us at the end. They took EUR 180 from me and sent us back. This time they didn't hit me. They have beaten me twice out of five attempts,” Rahim added.
Last year, reads the article, there were fewer than 1,000 migrant arrivals to Bosnia but this year the Balkan country has seen at least 9,000. Most of them are from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, and the majority have been on the road for two or three years, often spending time stranded in Turkey or Serbia and determined to press on their final destinations, which for most is Germany.
“I have tried five or six times to cross into Croatia, every time they have caught me. Once they lied to me, they said I could stay for 21 days if I signed some papers at the police station, so I did. Then they took my photograph, drove me back to the border and let me out,” said Leila from Iran.
“They stole my last EUR 10 and my telephone. I have paid thousands of euros and I have been travelling for two years. I have two daughters here with me and I don't know what to do,” she said.
The vast majority of those interviewed by the Guardian reported a theft by Croatian police.
“Last time, they took four telephones and one power bank from our group, they stole them,” a 48-year-old woman from Afghanistan told the Guardian.
“They beat the men but not the women,” she said adding that she was hit once when she asked to get her phone back.
Croatia is not part of the European Union's free movement Schengen zone, reads the article, but hopes to join it soon, and as such is keen to prove it can police the EU's external border. Croatian Interior Ministry told the Guardian that the migrants were carrying weapons and inflicting injuries on themselves.
“Recent media reporting from Bosnia and Herzegovina and official reports made by their national police clearly show that in that area migrants come into conflicts and injure one another,” the ministry said.
Neutral observers confirm the allegations of violence.
According to the Guardian, an employee of an international organisation, who is not authorised to speak publicly and who has spent several months in the field, said maybe not every story was true but that “there were too many reports of violence to ignore it.”
The text by Shaun Walker was carried by media outlets in the region and the world, sparking numerous reactions. The article was also published on the UNHCR's official website.