An organisation documenting expulsions and violence against migrants released a video footage on Sunday allegedly showing Croatian police systematically expelling groups of migrants on the border with Bosnia. The Croatian Interior Ministry dismissed the allegations insisting that border police were applying the principle of deterrence.
The ministry said in a statement it had checked the locations where the footage was reportedly made and the actions of Croatian police, and it found that the police activities on the border with Bosnia were in line with the law.
The ministry dismissed the allegations about expelling hundreds of migrants to Bosnia and stressed that the police was applying the principle of deterrence.
Border Violence Monitoring (BMV), the organisation that published the video, said it had received the footage in an anonymous letter. The organisation considers it authentic because of "the extensiveness and level of detail of the material in concordance with other reports".
"The footage was filmed by hidden cameras in a forest near Lohovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, (Coordinates 44.7316124, 15.9133454) between September 29 and October 10, 2018 and show 54 push-backs," BVM said, adding that at least 350 refugees, including small children, minors and women, can be seen in the video.
The organisation further said that reports of local non-governmental organisations cite expulsions accompanied by property destruction, violence and theft committed by police, and that the Doctors Without Borders regularly provide medical assistance to migrants injured by police in villages near the border.
The Croatian Interior Ministry explained in the Sunday statement that the principle of deterrence is prescribed by the Schengen Border Code and is applicable to an area between two border crossing points open to international traffic, in this case between Croatia and Bosnia, which is also the European Union external border.
"This is a legal measure available to border police in European countries and is applicable to persons who try to enter their territory illegally, outside border crossing points," the ministry said.
The ministry stressed that Croatian police act in accordance with the existing law, respecting all standards of fundamental human rights.
Any uncontrolled entry of a large number of persons would turn Croatia into a hot spot, which the Ministry of the Interior will never allow, but will use all measures and mechanisms available under national and EU legislation to protect the state border, the statement said.
It said that non-governmental organisations covering Croatian police actions should communicate any relevant information to the police without delay so that an investigation could be urgently carried out in accordance with the rules of criminal investigation. "Anything else is open to manipulation and misinterpretation of the circumstances of any incident."
The ministry said it thoroughly checks all information available about accusations regarding the alleged use of force and the commission of crimes against migrants. "So far not in one case has it been found that police officers overstepped their powers against migrants," it underlined.
The efforts made by Croatian police in preventing illegal migration and the manner in which they monitor and guard the state border, which is the longest external border of the EU, are in line with the conclusions of relevant EU authorities and are acknowledged by EU countries that are final destinations of economic migrants.
Thanks to the effective work of Croatian police, these countries are not exposed to a bigger influx of migrants, the statement said.
Croatian police remain committed to protecting the Croatian and EU border and safeguarding the security of Croatian and EU citizens, said the ministry.