Croatian human rights activists have said that the European Commission's latest proposals regarding migration and asylum are an attempt to deepen and legalise the practice of violation of migrants' human rights, noting that Croatia must not agree to becoming a "sorting place".
"The pact on migration and asylum underlines solidarity as a value on paper, but that is solely solidarity among member states. Solidarity towards refugees and other migrants is not mentioned," Tea Vidovic of the Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) NGO said at a news conference held in Zagreb's Europe Square on Tuesday.
"What the pact constantly mentions is return, namely the return of people, even though they come from areas where their lives and safety could be in danger. It is exactly in that segment that the pact is contrary to the very convention on refugees," Vidovic said.
The activists said that similar warnings have been coming in recent weeks from experts and international organisations and networks such as the European Council on Refugees and Exiles and EuroMed Rights. All those organisations, including the CMS, had previously presented their proposals and requests for a solidary EU policy towards refugees, but the EU did not take them into account.
The activists recall that countries like Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and more recently, Croatia, speak of pressure they have to cope with due to measures envisaged by the Dublin regulation.
They believe that the latest pact, instead of ensuring division of responsibility among member states, has additionally burdened, by envisaging pre-screening, countries on the EU's external borders and has thus violated international law.
The pact envisages generalised assessment of whether an application for international protection will be successful, regardless of the specificities of individual cases, and mostly based on the applicant's country of origin even though it is clear that no country can in principle be considered safe. Under international law, cases should be assessed on an individual basis so that people are not exposed to mortal danger by being sent back, said Antonia Pindulic of the CMS.
After civil society organisations have for years requested that an independent mechanism of monitoring police conduct be introduced with regard to access to the asylum system, the pact envisages monitoring police work, however, that mechanism is far from the necessary autonomy because it should be established by the very body whose work it is supposed to oversee, they warn.
Almost a month since the draft pact was made public Croatian institutions are not voicing their position on its problematic points. Croatia has been agreeing to blackmail from the EU for years due to its bid to join the Schengen area, but it must not agree to becoming a Western Balkans sorting place, because essentially that is a human rights violation, the activists said.