Reaction of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior to the article of the British news portal The Guardian

Accusations that the Croatian Police humiliated migrants on a religious basis are completely absurd as well as dangerous if we take into consideration that they were published in the month of Ramadan

The British news portal The Guardian published an article yesterday, yet another in a series full of factually unfounded accusations made at the expense of the Croatian Police concerning their treatment of illegal migrants.

The unfounded accusations went a step further this time, the article states that Croatian police officers used spray paint to colour the heads of migrants who attempted to illegally enter Croatian territory with the intent to mark, humiliate and traumatise them because their heads were painted in the shape of a cross, whereas the migrant population is predominantly Muslim.

Croatian police officers are accused of xenophobia in a tendentious manner, by resorting to sensationalist articles which lack objectivity and it is especially absurd that such accusations are imputed onto police officers of a state that has excellent and friendly relations with the Islamic community.

The publication of such an article during the month of Ramadan, which incites religious intolerance, is especially worrisome and warrants scathing denunciation.

The fabrication that migrants are marked in the sign of the cross because of their faith demonstrates the author’s ignorance and a premeditated attack against Croatia without any knowledge of the basic facts. It is well-known that the Croatian authorities have excellent relations with the Muslim religious community which is greatly valued in Croatian society and which the worldwide public recognises as an exemplary cooperation between religious communities. We would also like to bring attention to the conference “Muslim Communities in Europe – Rights and Duties”, where it was pointed out that the Muslim community in Croatia has been promoting for years the idea that could serve as a model to address the question of the integration of Muslim communities throughout Europe, but also of Christian minorities in the Muslim world.

The Croatian Ministry of the Interior has already received various accusations regarding the manner in which it conducts state border surveillance; however, in this case we are especially appalled by how far the author of the article is willing to go with their fabrications.

As in all previous such cases of accusations against the Croatian Police, we immediately conducted an urgent investigation with the help of our police administrations. This encompassed insight into the records of the treatment of migrants, conversations with shift leaders in police stations and police officers who were performing their duty and patrolling the locations in question along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina during the alleged time. It has been established that along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina which has been indicated, the Croatian Police did not conduct any activities towards migrants, nor has their movement towards the border of the Republic of Croatia been noted, i.e. the statements in the newspaper article are not true because they are not the result of the actions of the Croatian Police.

Unfortunately, we believe that this bizarre case is also just another in a series of already regular accusations because the Croatian Police consistently implements border surveillance measures to protect the external border of the EU and it does not tolerate illegal entries into the Republic of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia is constantly under the pressure of different interest groups, which have the objective of weakening the measures implemented on the Croatian border. In 2019, the Croatian police arrested more than 1000 persons for smuggling human beings and assisting illegal migrants. The fact is that the camp “Lipa” was not established 25 km away from the border, but rather only 5 km, which generates the same problem for organisations dealing in illegal migration towards the Republic of Croatia and it differs from the former camp “Vučjak” in that it has better humanitarian conditions for the accommodation of migrants.

As a collocutor to the author of the article, a certain activist of the association No Name Kitchen and the association Border Violence Monitoring is mentioned. These two organisations have been the most active for years when it comes to accusing the Croatian Police for their treatment of illegal migrants.

We would like to point out that the association No Name Kitchen was a ringleader, according to the information at our disposal, in the attempt of a violent breakthrough of hundreds of migrants into the Republic of Croatia across the border with Serbia in December of 2018, which was prevented in coordination with the police of the Republic of Serbia. As stated in the article, No Name Kitchen now implements its activities in the migrant camp in Velika Kladuša.

The organisation Border Violence Monitoring regularly publishes accusations against the Croatian Police and the Republic of Croatia on its news portal because of the treatment of migrants, but it does this also against all other countries on the Balkan Migration Route. The accusations which they publish contain almost no information and data which can be investigated, as in the case of the article published by The Guardian.

The current opus of the author of the article in question can in no respect be considered as professional and objective news reporting. Such “journalist” articles are conceived on already existing positions that the Croatian Police abuses migrants, whereas on the other hand they do not provide any information or data which can be investigated and which can be responded to in an argumentative manner, precisely as in the case the newspaper article describes.

However, what is clear is but deliberately not mentioned, is the fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the border that Croatia has the responsibility to protect, there are thousands of migrants who attempt to enter the EU illegally and who are prepared to use all means necessary to achieve their goal. This includes giving false testimonies against police officers who prevent them in their attempts on a daily basis.

The lack of objectiveness in the reporting is also visible in the fact that numerous cases of violence among the migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not mentioned, and neither are the attacks on security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina. No reference is made about the many lives of migrants which have been saved by the Croatian Police, as recently by the Mountain Rescue Service of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the case of the rescue of 11 migrants who fell into a pit while running away from the border police of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Therefore, the accusations that the Croatian Police humiliated migrants on the basis of their religion are completely absurd as well as dangerous considering the time in which they are broadcast to the public.

When considering these statements, it is always necessary to pose the question why would a police officer commit such misdeeds and who would gain from the publication of such news. This should always constitute the starting point for the deliberation of such articles.

Nevertheless, such and similar articles will not weaken the measures which this Ministry implements in order to protect the state border.

We would also like to use this opportunity to point out that during the treatment of migrants, the police respect their fundamental rights and dignity and enable them access to the system of international protection if they are in need of such protection, in accordance with international provisions on human rights, relevant regulations of the European Union and national legislation.