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HRW Says Croatia Shouldn't Be In Schengen Free-Travel Zone Over Treatment Of Migrants

Croatian border police keep watch at a border crossing with Bosnia-Herzegovina. (file photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the European Union not to admit to Croatia to its border-free travel zone over its treatment of migrants crossing into the Balkan country.

In a report issued on November 8, the New York-based rights group criticized the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, for announcing last month that Croatia is ready to join the so-called Schengen Area.

"Croatia's unlawful and violent summary returns of asylum seekers and migrants should disqualify it from joining the Schengen Area," said Lydia Gall, senior Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at HRW, adding that the commission's actions "sends the message that serious human rights abuses are no obstacle to Schengen accession."

There was no immediate reaction from Croatia to the report. Croatian officials have repeatedly denied accusations of abuse made by migrants and human rights groups.

A video accompanying the HRW report appears to show police escorting migrants across the border to Bosnia-Herzegovina without, according to HRW, following due process.

In its assessment, the European Commission acknowledged that denying potential asylum seekers and allegations of use of force by Croatian police remain a challenge.

It concluded, however, that the creation of a system to monitor Croatian border guards' actions as well as Croatian government promises to probe alleged abuses were enough "to fulfill its commitment in relation to the protection of human rights."

HRW has documented summary collective expulsions from Croatia to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2016, in some cases using force.

With reporting by AP
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