A woman in Afghanistan says she was sexually abused, forced to strip, held at knife point and threatened with rape by a Croatian officer after crossing Croatia from Bosnia to seek asylum, according to a new file (PDF) compiled by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
The woman, whose name is withheld for privacy, said she and three others, an elderly man and two children, crossed the border into Croatia near Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, in the evening February 15.
Shortly after, the group was stopped by a Croatian policeman, who continued to point a gun at them until other policemen arrived at the scene. When the group said they were seeking asylum, a police officer “laughed and cursed at them as they asked him to understand each other,” the woman said.
She said she was repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse and forced to undress during a search near the border. Police beat the group of asylum seekers with batons on their backs and legs as they were forced to return to Bosnia, she said.
Police said in a statement on Wednesday that they were investigating the reported sexual abuse,
The Associated Press news agency reported.
Police said an initial examination of the allegations gathered by the Danish Refugee Council group did not reveal any police intervention against migrant women on February 15, when the incident allegedly took place.
“We are absolutely horrified by such allegations and [that] such behavior is attributed to a Croatian policeman, ”the statement read.
“As in all previous cases where the Croatian police have been accused of violence against migrants, immediate steps were taken to verify the allegations.”
The DRC report contained other testimonies detailing physical violence, causing injuries to migrants.
A total of 23,853 people have reported refoulements in Bosnia since May 2019, according to the report.
The council documented 547 people deported from Croatia in January and February, 35% having suffered abusive and degrading treatment and 32% reporting physical violence and assault.
A third of those interviewed said they were denied access to an asylum procedure.
The DRC report noted that refoulements, violent or not, violated the EU’s asylum, migration and Schengen acquis, but were reported daily at the EU’s external borders.
“The testimonies recorded by the DRC are really shocking,” said Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the DRC. “Despite the lower number of refoulements recorded by the DRC in 2021 – which can largely be attributed to the harsh weather conditions, as occurred in early 2020 – the patterns of violence and abuse reported at the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina remain unchanged. “
“This underscores, once again, the urgent need for systematic investigations into these reports. Despite the engagement of the European Commission with the Croatian authorities in recent months, we have seen virtually no progress, neither in the investigation of the reports themselves, nor in the development of independent monitoring mechanisms. borders to prevent violence at the EU’s external borders.
“It is really time to turn the rhetoric into reality – and to ensure that truly independent border surveillance is in place to prevent these abuses, and to ensure that credible and transparent investigations can effectively hold them to account. perpetrators of violence and abuse.
“Whether or not they involve violence, refoulements constitute a violation of international and EU law, and EU member states have long respected the rule of law in border management. “
Croatia has repeatedly denied allegations that it is using violence to return migrants and asylum seekers to Bosnia.
On January 11, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued observations to the European Court of Human Rights, noting that all information points to an established practice of collective returns, Widespread ill-treatment of migrants by Croatian law enforcement agencies and a lack of prompt and independent investigations into such treatment, according to the report.