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Rights Group Says Serbian Police Abusing Migrants, Asylum Seekers

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned what it says is "harassment and abuse" of asylum seekers and migrants by police in Serbia.

In a report issued on April 15, the U.S.-based rights group said migrants and asylum seekers trying to escape war and persecution in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria say they have been victims of violent assaults, threats, insults, and extortion by police.

Some complained of being summarily sent to Macedonia.

Others said that unaccompanied children are being denied special protections by authorities that are required by international law.

The rights group said some families and unaccompanied children said they had been turned away by authorities when they tried to register as asylum seekers and were sleeping outdoors in the bitter cold.

HRW researcher Emina Cerimovic said the Serbian authorities should be protecting asylum seekers and immigrants, including children who flee war and persecution.

The report noted alleged abuses by Serbian police "particularly in Subotica," a town on the border with Hungary, as well as in southern and eastern Serbia and in Belgrade.

The Serbian Interior Ministry rejected the accusations.

"Claims that migrants and asylum seekers presented to HRW are not supported by any evidence that would help to establish the responsibility of [Serbian] police and border police," a ministry statement said.

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