Officials in Serbia has accused border police in EU neighbor Croatia of torturing an Afghan teen and ignoring his and 15 other fellow migrants' right to claim asylum within the Brussels-based bloc.
The allegation was quickly dismissed by Zagreb as an effort by Belgrade to deflect criticism of Serbian policies toward migrants, according to a September 5 Reuters report.
Both countries lie along one of the so-called Balkan routes used by hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing conflict or hardship to the south and east and determined to make their way to Western Europe in recent years.
The Serbian refugee agency accused Croatian officers of "physical and psychological torture," which included electric shocks and beatings, leaving the 16-year-old Afghan, whose name was given as Sharukhan, with fractured bones and internal bleeding.
Reuters said it spoke to the young man at a Serbian refugee camp, where it saw bandages on other members of the migrant group traveling with Sharukhan that they said had been inflicted by Croatian authorities.
Croatia has been criticized in the past for its treatment of migrants, including by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"We consider this to be another in a series of unfounded and substantially unsupported allegations against the Croatian police due to its persistence and determination in protecting the state border and the external border of the European Union," Croatia's Interior Ministry said in a statement. "The allegations about the torture of migrants are absolutely incomprehensible and have no real basis."
The flow of refugees and other migrants has slowed since coordinated European efforts intensified in 2016, but thousands still travel routes in the Balkans in hopes of settling in the West.
Police violence in the region is said to be a common problem by refugee rights groups and other activists.
Serbia Accuses Croatian Cops Of 'Torture' Against Afghan, Other Migrants