Croatian police have strongly denied accusations that they spray-painted crosses onto the heads of asylum seekers crossing into the country from Bosnia which they say are “fabricated” and “absurd”.
The claims published in the Guardian were made alongside photos showing reported asylum seekers with red cross sprayed onto their heads that were reportedly taken close to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Croatian police have now denied the accusations in a strongly worded statement sent to Newsflash.
The statement says: “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 whoa 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.”
The statement goes on to describe reports accusing the police of xenophobia as “sensationalist” and “lacking objectivity,” adding that the Croatian state “has excellent and friendly relations with the Islamic community”.
The police said that publishing the article in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan was “worrisome” and “warrants scathing denunciation”.
The statement adds that it was a “fabrication” that migrants had been marked with crosses, adding they were “especially appalled” by the author who they say showed their “ignorance” in the report.
They cited the fact that the report ignored 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” including “giving false testimonies against police officers who prevent them in their attempts”.
The police also criticised the No Name Kitchen association which provided sources for the Guardian article, accusing the association of being a “ringleader” for a “violent breakthrough of hundreds of migrants into the Republic of Croatia across the border with Serbia in December of 2018” which was eventually prevented.
The police said No Name Kitchen and another association named Border Violence Monitoring “have been the most active for years when it comes to accusing the Croatian Police for their treatment of illegal migrants”.
Jack Sapoch, No Name Kitchen’s coordinator of border violence reporting who was quoted in the Guardian report, has defended the accusations against the police when speaking to Newsflash.
Sapoch said that “the spread of COVID-19 has unfortunately limited No Name Kitchen’s direct field presence in Bosnia and this extends to our border violence reporting presence as well” but added that the group “maintains a network of local volunteers and sources which we have been utilising during the disruption”.
Sapoch said the association are “continuing to collect information on push-backs and border violence during this time” and provided further information on the accusations in the Guardian report.
He wrote that that the photos had been “ taken by sympathetic local contacts who live in the borders areas close to where Croatian authorities illegally return refugees and migrants to Bosnia”.
Sapoch added: “On 2nd May, a group was reported as being pushed back to Glinica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, describing being tagged with orange paint by Croatian police officers before being pushed back to Bosnia. Their shoes were also reportedly stolen.
“On 6th May in Poljana, Bosnia and Herzegovina (less than three kilometres away from Glinica) a source who lives in the area reported to No Name Kitchen that a group was pushed back and again tagged by orange spray-paint (on 6th May). The source talked to them afterwards, taking several pictures.
“The group was also robbed of their money and mobile phones. Several group members had their shoes taken from them as well (sympathetic local people later provided them with new shoes).
“On May 7th, a different group returned to Miral Camp outside of Velika Kladusa describing very similar treatment the previous night. It is unknown which village they were pushed-back to exactly, however it is likely that they were returned to the general Poljana/Glinica area as well.”
Newsflash asked the Guardian for comment including whether they had contacted Croatian police for verification, but had received no reply at the time of publishing this article.
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.