Systematic violence and torture have been inflicted by police against migrants in Croatia, according to a new report from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
Thousands of immigrants leaving their countries with hopes for a better life continue to use the so-called Balkan route which crosses Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia in an effort to reach Western Europe.
DRC representatives documented inhuman attacks inflicted by police on dozens of immigrants between Oct. 12 and Oct. 16 by conducting investigations along the Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia border and urged the EU to investigate incidents in the report that was released late Wednesday.
DRC said hundreds of immigrants living in Velika Kladusa on the Croatian border of Bosnia and Herzegovina live in difficult conditions. Investigators found cuts and wounds on the bodies of migrants who said were inflicted by police.
In one incident, five Afghans, including two minors, crossed the Croatian border near the Sturlic settlement on Oct. 12.
“On the same day, near Novo Selo, a uniformed police officer stopped them and then called two more officers. One of the migrants ran, and the other four were detained at a police station. Two days later they were taken to court, where they say they were to ‘appear as witnesses in the case launched against the fifth member of the group – the one who escaped,’ who had been accused of violent behavior towards police," DRC said in the report.
The asylum seekers told the DRC that they were taken “to some unknown location, where they were put in a van in the charge of 10 armed people, dressed in black and with full face balaclavas, army boots and with flashlights on their foreheads.”
Money was taken, belongings torched and they were ordered to strip to their underwear. The migrants allege that they were then forced to lie face down on the ground.
“One man in black was standing on the victim’s hands, preventing any movements. Legs were also restrained. Once the person was hampered, the beating started. They were punched, kicked, whipped, and beaten,” according to the report.
Medical reports confirm that injuries sustained were consistent with the use of a whip.
Medical reports published by The Guardian newspaper said immigrants caught in Croatia were whipped by police. The report in the British outlet had an accompanying photograph of an immigrant with whip marks on his body.
A migrant with the initials, MK, said he was sexually assaulted by a man using a branch.
"The testimonies collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying," said DRC Secretary-General Charlotte Slente.
"More than 75 persons in one week have all independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings, and even sexual abuse," said Slente.
Mustafa Hodzic, a doctor in Velika Kladusa, who was quoted in the report, said there were wounds on the back and legs of an immigrant he examined and there was evidence of sexual abuse.
A Pakistani immigrant said his group was beaten with batons by people dressed in black after they were placed naked onto a truck.
"One of them took a selfie. Four people were on the ground naked. We slept still for 20 minutes," he said.
Officials in Croatia, which is an EU member, have not yet responded to the report which was sent to the EU Commission./aa