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Council Of Europe Urges Croatia To Probe Reports Of Police Violence Against Migrants

The Council of Europe's concerns were outlined in a letter that was signed by the human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic. (file photo)

The Council of Europe is urging Croatia to investigate allegations against police of the "ill treatment" of migrants trying to cross through the western Balkan nation's borders.

In a letter sent in September and made public on October 5, the council said Croatian authorities should probe "all recorded cases of collective expulsions and of allegations of violence against migrants."

The letter was signed by the human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, and addressed to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

"I am worried by reports that I have received from expert refugee and migrant organizations that provide consistent and substantiated information about a large number of collective expulsions from Croatia to Serbia and to Bosnia-Herzegovina," Mijatovic’s letter said, citing moves against "irregular migrants," including potential asylum-seekers.

Mijatovic added that "particularly worrisome" were allegations of "systematic violence" used by Croatian law enforcement against migrants, including children and pregnant women.

The incidents were detailed in an 87-page report published on October 2 by the council.

Many migrants attempt to cross into Croatia, a member of the European Union, through Bosnia.

Activist groups have said many migrants slip through but that others are violently forced back outside Croatia’s borders.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has cited reports by migrants of police abuse and thefts of phones and money by Croatian law enforcement.

The Croatian government has denied incidents of police abuse, claiming that most migrants had left voluntarily.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said in a response council's letter that "no cases of police coercion towards migrants...nor thefts were established."

He added that Croatia, which is seeking to join the visa-free Schengen zone, has an "obligation to protect the state border from illegal crossings."

Croatia was previously part of the so-called Balkans route used by migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 and 2016 after fleeing regions in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The route was mainly shut down in 2016.

With reporting by AFP and Total Croatia
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