A Syrian refugee claiming that the Croatian police forcibly separated him from his five-year-old daughter on Monday formally filed a missing person’s report and applied for asylum in Croatia.
Croatian border police, with the help of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) for Southeast Europe and representatives of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), met with the 43-year-old Syrian national at the Maljevac border crossing (on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina) on Monday.
During the meeting, he informed the police of the details surrounding his daughter's alleged disappearance and officially reported her as missing, the Interior Ministry said.
He was also granted asylum on humanitarian grounds and is expected to be escorted to a migrant centre in Zagreb on Monday evening.
Following his claims and an appeal in which he urges a general public to help him to find his five-year-old daughter, the Croatian police said on Sunday in response to state news agency Hina's queries that the Syrian's allegations about the incident were inaccurate and that there had been no police activities in the village where he said the incident took place.
Tvrtko Barun of the JRS told N1 today that the man was deeply distraught.
“It is understandable that he may not know which village exactly he was in (when the incident took place)… the police determined there was no activity in that particular village. They are not looking into the neighbouring villages,” he said, commenting on the police’s statement from Sunday.
The man first gave a statement about the incident in Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying he had crossed the border into Croatia illegally with his daughter and a family from Iraq, and that he was separated from five-year-old Allsa while he was trying to buy some provisions in a grocery shop in the Croatian village of Smoljanac. He said the police waited for him in front of the store and made him go back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and that they did not want, or could not understand that his daughter was left behind in the vicinity of the shop.
Earlier in September, UNHCR had issued a report which said that some 2,500 refugees were turned back from Croatia since the beginning of the year, 1,500 of whom were denied asylum, while some 700 reported experiencing violence and theft at the hands of Croatian border police.
The Croatian Interior Ministry had denied all allegations of police brutality against migrants, saying that UNHCR and the Interior Ministry were successfully cooperating on the issue of the treatment of migrants, and that there were no specific complaints on the treatment as part of the Border Monitoring project, in which UNHCR is participating with the Croatian Law Centre.