Urgent calls were heard during a debate on the migrant situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and particularly in Una-Sana Canton held in the European Parliament on Thursday for the Vucjak migrant camp to be shut down because of inadequate accommodation conditions.
Several MEPs critcised Croatian police for violent pushbacks of migrants, while Croatian MEPs said that such claims were unverified and unproved.
It is necessary to immediately evacuate the people from the Vucjak centre and shut it down, Finland’s Foreign Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said.
Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said that since 2008 the Commission had provided €36 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina in aid for migrants.
Despite the numerous calls the Commission has addressed to authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to select a location for appropriate reception centres, we still have not received any response, Avramopoulos said.
We cannot accept the continual transfer of migrants and refugees to the totally inappropriate site at Vucjak where the lives of people are at risk due to the lack of basic conditions. That site is surrounded by minefields and does not satisfy even the minimum demands for decent accommodation and that location will not receive any financial support from the EU, said Avramopoulos. He welcomed a decision by the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity authorities granting approval for two barracks, one outside Sarajevo and the other near Tuzla, to be set up as temporary reception centres.
He underscored that the Commission was concerned about allegations of violent pushbacks and poor treatment of migrants at the Croatian border.
We take those reports by non-governmental and international organisations very seriously. Any form of violence against migrants is unacceptable. We are in daily contact with Croatian authorities who have undertaken to investigate the allegations and we have asked them to inform the Commission accordingly, he added.
Speaking on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP), Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler (HDZ) warned that Croatia was faced “with attempts of political pressure because of its commitment to protect Europe’s borders.”
“These are usually generalised and unfounded or unverified allegations of inhumane treatment of migrants. However, we must not give in to targetted pressure because we have a responsibility toward all European citizens to protect the longest land border in the EU while clearly respecting the rights and dignity of migrants, whom we are assisting and saving them when they are in life-threatening situations that they have been put in by people smugglers, which we have witnessed over the past few days in several disturbing examples,” said Ressler.
Several Social Democratic, Green and United Left MEPs warned of violent pushbacks by Croatian border police.
MEP Ruza Tomasic of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group said that the crime rate along the migrant route in Croatia had increased and that local residents were afraid for their safety and properties.
Independent MEP Vilibor Sincic said that he had personally visited the border region and established that there were “not enough police to protect the border despite claims by the interior minister and prime minister.” Sincic believes that the only solution is to stop the crisis at its source.