Croatian NHRI presents the state of human rights of migrants at borders in its new report
Through its mandate as National Human Rights Institution and National Preventive Mechanism, the Croatian Ombudswoman is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms of migrants in Croatia, including at borders. In its newly published report, the NHRI presents findings from the activities carried out in 2020, including monitoring visits and complaint-handling.
During 2020, the Croatian Ombudswoman opened 39 cases regarding the treatment of irregular migrants and asylum seekers by the Croatian police. Under its NPM mandate, the institution undertook three unannounced visits to police stations in Zagreb, Cetingrad and Hrvatska Kostajnica.
Many cases related to pushbacks practices across the green border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In some cases, migrants were allegedly subjected to inhuman treatment, physical and even sexual violence. While the Ministry denied allegations of ill-treatment, the Ombudswoman reminded authorities that some allegations pointed to potential breaches of Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) whereby undertaking effective investigations is a positive obligation of a state.
The Croatian Ombudswoman has also received allegations and investigated several cases of migrants who have reported that they were not able to access asylum procedures when crossing the border to Croatia, despite the fact that they explicitly asked for it. The NHRI therefore reiterated its recommendation that the relevant authorities and the Minister of Interior must process the requests for asylum of all migrants found in Croatian territory, including when they irregularly cross the border, in line with international and EU law.
During 2020, the office of the Ombudswoman conducted an investigation concerning foreigners’ access to free legal aid at the Detention Centre in Ježevo. It was found that the majority were not adequately acquainted with having this right, nor could they contact anyone for legal advice and/or legal representation.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Croatian NPM suspend its visits from March 2020 until June 2020 but continued to monitor the situation of persons of concerns by requesting information to national authorities and cooperating with NGOs and international organizations. In its report, the NHRI highlights the issue of inadequate support to civil society organisations (CSOs) during the pandemic, inadequate policy framework for fostering cooperation with CSOs, lack of adequate financing for human rights NGOs and lack of access to statistical data and information, particularly by those working on migration, as well as lack of access to the reception and detention centres.
As part of ENNHRI‘s project on promoting and protecting migrants’ rights at borders, the Croatian report will feed into a comparative regional report on the situation of migrants’ rights at borders. The preliminary results of the regional report were presented on 2-3 June at the high-level meeting on the role of NHRIs in ensuring respect for the human rights of migrants at borders. The comparative report will be published soon on ENNHRI’s website.
For more information, please contact Gabriel Almeida from the ENNHRI Secretariat