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Croatia police probe claim migrant sexually abused at border

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatian police said Wednesday they are investigating a report that an officer sexually harassed an Afghan woman during a recent incident at the border with Bosnia.

The police said an initial look into allegations collected by the Danish Refugee Council group, and reported by The Guardian newspaper, found no police intervention against any female migrants on Feb. 15, when the incident reportedly took place.

“We are absolutely horrified by such allegations and (that) such behavior is attributed to a Croatian policeman,” a police statement emailed to The Associated Press said.

“Just like in all previous instances when Croatian police were accused of violence against migrants, immediate actions were taken to check the allegations.”

The Guardian reported that on the night of Feb. 15 the Afghan woman was allegedly sexually abused, held at knifepoint and forced to strip naked by a Croatian border police officer, during a search of a group of migrants on the border with Bosnia.

Nicola Bay, Bosnia director for the DRC, told the AP the allegation made by the unidentified Afghan woman were “truly horrifying.” He called for an independent monitoring mechanism to be established at the border between Croatia and Bosnia.

“An Afghan woman alleged repeated incidents of sexual abuse during a pushback from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina, including being forced to strip naked,” he said. ”This report emphasized the continuing and systematic patterns of violence and abuse happening during pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

Croatia has repeatedly denied allegations that it uses violence to turn back migrants trying to enter the European Union nation from Bosnia. So-called pushbacks, or collective expulsions, of migrants and refugees without access to asylum procedures and consideration of individual circumstances are contrary to EU and international law.

Bay said that his group recorded over 16,000 pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia in 2020, more than half of which included allegations of violence. Earlier this week, the U.N. refugee agency in Bosnia also called for urgent action to stop violent collective expulsions along the Croatian border with Bosnia after encountering 50 exhausted migrants allegedly pushed back to Bosnia.

Several thousand refugees and migrants have been stuck in Bosnia while trying to reach Western Europe, usually first by crossing into Croatia before moving further toward wealthy EU states such as Germany or France.

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Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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