Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic on Friday criticised the treatment by Croatian police of illegal migrants coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on Bosnian authorities to treat migrants more responsibly and to urgently close down the Vucjak camp outside the northwestern town of Bihac.
Mijatovic has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina this week to see for herself the scale of the problem of illegal migration, visiting all refugee camps in the country. Addressing an end-of-visit press conference in Sarajevo on Friday, she explicitly condemned the conduct of Croatian border police as unacceptable, particularly their practice of pushing migrants back over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
She said that many doctors had given her "consistent statements" about violence being used by Croatian police. She added that there was a disturbingly large number of testimonies of violence against and abuse of migrants and of migrants being robbed of their property.
Mijatovic said that the practice of pushbacks used by Croatian border police was a violation of the human rights convention, including the right to asylum and prohibition of torture.
She said she had requested an explanation from Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in October 2018, but the situation had only worsened since then. I am mentioning this again because nothing has changed, she underlined.
Mijatovic called for an independent investigation into police abuses to identify the perpetrators and bring them to account. She said she would continue closely monitoring the illegal migration situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region and act at the European level.
Whether that will bring about change is a matter of political will and not resources. The migrants I have met asked me to be their voice, Mijatovic said.
Mijatovic, herself from Bosnia and Hezegovina, has visited the migrant centres in the country this week and called for the Vucjak camp near Bihac to be immediately closed down because of inhumane conditions.
She said she was shocked by what she had seen in Vucjak. Human beings, including minors, cramped in mud at a former waste disposal site next to minefields, she added.
Mijatovic said she expected the camp to be closed down very soon because there were not many people there, about 500 to 600, and appropriate accommodation should be found for them. She added that she had received guarantees from Security Minister Dragan Mektic that this would happen soon.
Mektic later said that the Vucjak camp would be dismantled by the end of next week, and the people staying there would be transferred to other camps.