Speaking ahead of a plenary debate on the situation at the external borders of the European Union in the European Parliament on Wednesday, Green MEPs said it was unquestionable that Croatian border police were forcibly returning migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina in violation of legal procedures.
"The only people who are insisting that illegal pushbacks are not happening in the EU’s largest external land border are the Croatian authorities," Green MEP Tineke Strik said in a report. "The UN agencies, the Croatian Ombudsman, civil society and migrants and asylum seekers we spoke to showed us clear evidence that this is happening," she added.
Last week Strik was on a fact-finding mission, along with her party colleagues Saskia Bricmont and Erik Marquardt, to Croatia's border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Zagreb, they met, among others, with Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who denied their accusations. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, they visited two refugee camps at Bihac in the northwest of the country and talked to local government officials, representatives of international organisations, activists and migrants.
In their report, the Greens demand that Croatia allow independent oversight of the conduct of the Croatian border police and that the European Commission investigate allegations of human rights violations.
"People reported being beaten up by the Croatian police, being forcibly taken back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and given no information or denied access to the asylum system. Nearly 40% of the individuals pushed back are children," Strik said in the report.
"Contrary to what the Croatian Government and the European Commission say, it is evident that there is no human rights monitoring mechanism. We call on the Croatian authorities to immediately start independent monitoring, involving the Ombudswoman and civil society organisations, on the situation at the border. The Croatian government must examine all complaints and we urge the Commission to do a thorough investigation into the allegations and take all necessary steps to ensure compliance with European rules and fundamental rights.
"The EU is pushing Croatian authorities to 'protect' their borders and keep asylum seekers and migrants out, without demanding respect for fundamental rights. It is astonishing that despite the substantiated allegations of violent push backs, EU countries like Germany are applauding Croatia. The EU and its member states must stop turning a blind eye to this humanitarian situation at its borders," Strik said.