JRS head comments on treatment of migrants on Croatia border

NEWS 30.10.2018 21:17
Source: N1

Head of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Tvrtko Barun, was a guest in Croatia's N1 Studio on Monday, where he commented on migrant camps in the Una-Sana Canton in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the treatment of migrants who are currently situated in Bosnia while trying to reach Western Europe.

There are between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the Una-Sana Canton, mostly men, he said, adding the conditions in most migrant camps in the country were bad.

“In (the Bosnian town of) Velika Kladusa, the improvised camp is on a meadow, which gets muddy when it rains, the conditions are unhygienic and inhumane,” he said.

Minimal living conditions, food, and medical care were secured in large hangars and tents in the north of the city of Bihac, he added.

The migrants do not understand why the borders are closed because they do not wish to stay in Croatia anyway.

Some two hundred migrants who stayed over the past months in an improvised tent camp near the northwestern Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, only a few kilometres away from the border with Croatia, came to the Maljevac border crossing last Tuesday, insisting that the border be opened so they could continue their journey towards European Union countries.

Croatian Interior Ministry had said that its police was committed to implementing the national and European laws, and prevent any illegal crossings of their state border, which is also the external EU border.

Barun said the Una-Sana Canton authorities had stood up to the policy from Sarajevo (Bosnia's capital) and refused to accept more migrants until proper conditions could be secured for those who were already there.

“This is political bickering, and in the end, the victims are always these people,” Barun said.

He also commented on the demands made by Croatian MP Hrvoje Zekanovic from the right party Hrast, who, according to Barun, defines himself as Christian, while calling for a barbed wire on Croatia’s border with Bosnia.

“That looks like an attempt to manipulate the public, raise tensions and hysteria. Realistically, there is no need for that, the Interior Ministry will be the first to tell him that. There were difficulties at (the border crossing of (Maljevac) for a few days, and every instance of violence against the police should be condemned. We have to do everything to make sure that does not happen,” Barun said.

Last week, the migrants who came to the Maljevac border crossing started pressuring the cordon, and eventually broke through the first line held by border police officers, which led to the closing off of the border crossing for all traffic.

“I call on all those who espouse their Christian heritage to look to Christian principles and compare them to what they’re saying… let’s look at the average views of Croatian people who call themselves Christian – there is a lot of prejudice there, a lot of animosity which goes against Christ’s teachings,” Barun said.

Many migrants are saying that the police have been aggressive and violent to them, destroying their phones and taking their money, he said.

“Of course no police will allow people to enter the country without proper documentation. That’s not the issue, the issue is the very likely, violent, illegal treatment of these people. From the beginning of the year, we have been talking about some situations which are not good, and the fact is that interior control has not found a single case. They are denying all accusations, and we are left embarrassed when listening to people’s testimonies on the ground. If only five percent of these stories were true, and I believe they are – it’s too many,” Barun said.

UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Desperate Journeys report on the movements of refugees and migrants through Europe, issued in September and covering the period from January to August 2018, said that, among the 2,500 refugees and migrants who were turned back at Croatian borders, there were more than 100 children and more than 700 adults who complained of violence and theft.

Croatian Interior Ministry had refuted the claims, saying that none of the complaints received so far from the UNHCR about the treatment of migrants by the border police was proven to be founded.

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