Report: Croatian officials shared information on migrants

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — An independent investigative group on Thursday accused Croatian officials and police of using an underground WhatsApp group to share sensitive information about migrants trying to enter the country.

He said he believed many of those referred to were later forcibly expelled from the country, which is illegal under international treaties. Croatian police have denied any wrongdoing.

The Lighthouse Reports group, which carried out a collaborative investigation between journalists from various European news organizations, said in a report published on Thursday that it received 60 leaked screenshots and managed to identify 33 participants in the encrypted group used between August 2019 and February 2020.

“We discovered that among them were senior Croatian officials,” the report “Inside Croatia’s Secret WhatsApp Group” said. said. “The WhatsApp group was used to exchange information on the arrests of more than 1,300 people, mainly of Afghan, Pakistani and Syrian nationality.”

The posts often featured photos of individuals, their faces clearly visible, some forced to lie face down or remove their shoes. The group was also used to exchange information about journalists visiting the border area, according to the report.

He added that the WhatsApp group “sat outside of any official means of communication and away from normal monitoring procedures, and there are strong indications that the foreign nationals referenced in the messages continued to be subject to pushbacks. illegal”.

Croatian officials said they could neither confirm nor deny such communication. Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic confirmed the existence of the Corridor police operation, which is mentioned in the report and which he said was designed to combat illegal migration and people smuggling.

“We cannot know if these messages are genuine,” Bozinovic said. “Corridor II-West is not a covert operation. This is an action carried out against migrant smugglers and intensively over the past five years.

In a separate statement on Thursday, the Croatian Interior Ministry reiterated that police were focusing on smugglers and denied mistreatment of migrants. The use of communication between officers is not prohibited, the statement insisted, adding that all police work is officially documented.

“The fact that certain information was exchanged via an encrypted application does not mean that the practice of the police is in any way incriminating or illegal”, specifies the press release from the Ministry of the Interior.

Croatia, an EU member state that joined the Schengen area without traveling this year, has repeatedly faced accusations of deportation migrants, an illegal practice under international refugee treaties.

Refoulements consist of preventing people from exercising their right to seek international protection — if they fear for their life or of being persecuted — often through the use of force or collective expulsions.

Migrants seek to enter Croatia from neighboring Bosnia or Serbia. They come first from Turkey or Greece, go to North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia, then to Western Europe along the so-called Balkan land route.

The Lighthouse report was produced in collaboration with Der Spiegel, Nova TV, the weekly Novosti, the news portal Telegram and the ORF.

In 2019, Lighthouse Reports released video footage of uniformed men wearing balaclavas beating groups of migrants, claiming they were Croatian police. This release led to an investigation and the dismissal of the police officers from their duties..


Follow AP’s migration coverage at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *