The Croatian Case

At the moment around 100 people are living in informal shelters near the Serbo-Croatian border, mainly in the area around Šid. Fearing deportations towards closed camps, most of them are hiding in the forest, fields or in an abandoned factory close to the city. The majority are young men and minors. Since there is no access to public hygienic facilities or drinking water, groups of volunteers and international organizations are supporting them by providing water and showers as well as mobile charging stations, food and non-food-items (e.g. sleeping bags). After the fortification of the Hungarian border, more and more people are trying to cross into Croatia by hiding in or under trains or walking through the forest in the border area.
The number of collective expulsions is increasing again since summer 2017, with many allegedly having been denied access to asylum procedures and being maltreated when pushed back to Serbia. In November 2017, UNHCR registered 929 push-backs in total, 366 of these from Croatia, 319 from Hungary and 244 from Romania [1]. Our teams on the ground have been observing an increase in violence against refugees on the Croatian side since spring 2017, which reinforces the suspicion that these “proceedings” are part of a systematic deterrence strategy. Spreading fear of becoming a victim of violence is supposed to deter people attempting a border crossing and to destroy their hope of success. Since the beginning of our documentation in May 2017, UNHCR, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch have denounced the disproportionate use of force by Croatian authorities during group expulsions [2], as well as Médecins sans frontières who warned of a recent dramatic increase in violence, referring to the same patterns we have been documenting, with police “hitting with batons, destroying cell phones, snatching money” [3]. In some cases, asylum requests were explicitly denied by police officers who continued to deport applicants back to Serbia.
When confronted with these issues, Croatia’s Ministry of Interior rejected all allegations and stated that the “Ministry has not received information on police violence against migrants” [4].


Current Situation

⇒ Hungarian Case

[1] UNHCR (22.12.2017): INTER-AGENCY OPERATIONAL UPDATE Serbia – November 2017;

[2] UNHCR (21.05.2017): Serbia Update 15.05.-21.05.2017;
Oxfam (06.04.2017): A Dangerous ‘Game’;
Human Rights Watch (2017): Croatia: Asylum Seekers Forced Back to Serbia;

[3] Médecins sans frontières (03.10.2017): GAMES OF VIOLENCE, unaccompanied children and young people repeatedly abused by EU member state border authorities;

[4] BalkanInsight (28.06.2017): Croatian Police Accused of Continuing to Beat Refugees;