By Aurora Weiss
VIENNA | 25 October 2023 (IDN) — Slovenians claim that the entry of the Republic of Croatia into Schengen* resulted in a record number of illegal migrants. Since the beginning of 2023, 40,000 illicit entries have been registered from the Croatian side. But the actual numbers are believed to be much higher. With the entry of Croatia into Schengen, migrants do not cross borders through dangerous areas, forests, and rivers but travel by roads, railways, and even taxis.
As the neighbouring country, Slovenia offered Andrej Plenović to accept help as part of Frontex and strengthen the protection of the EU’s external border, especially with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he refused. Unlike Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia got the green light for Schengen at the end of 2022 because of the support of Austria and the Netherlands.
How serious the situation has become since Croatia’s entry into Schengen is also underscored by the fact that last year, Frontex recorded around 330,000 irregular entries of migrants and asylum seekers into the EU, and Croatia alone had 54,593 illegal border crossings by the end of September 2023.
Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović (HDZ) has, in recent days, flooded the media with stories about the suspension of Croatia due to the terrorist attack in Brussels on 16 October, which occurred as a result of security crises in the Middle East, Israel, and Gaza.
But he misinforms the Croatian public because the suspension of Croatia was announced much earlier, more precisely on 27 September in Vienna at a meeting of diplomats.
A subject of discussion was how Andrej Plenković and Croatia refused to place Frontex on the external border, the most critical one with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is known that Bosnia and Herzegovina is under the influence of Islamic countries and is therefore considered particularly dangerous as a destination for additional radicalization of illegal migrants before they are sent further to Europe in an organized manner.
Now Croatia blames the permeability of its borders on the visa policy of neighboring countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
However, according to the statements of the political leaders of the Republic of Croatia, the hands are raised off this problem because the Croatian territory is only transitional for illegal migrants. A Croatian patrol policeman who, when asked where the large group of migrants standing in front of us in the centre of Zagreb was going, said: “We don’t care where they go; they mustn’t stay with us.”
The Croatian border is as ‘porous as Swiss cheese’, claims MOST, the opposition party of the ruling HDZ.
The MOST leadership proposes that the army be sent to the Croatian police to assist and help protect the EU’s external border. Austria conducts a similar operation on its borders. Even at legal crossings, the police carry out controls with the army’s assistance. Some Croatian political leaders openly demand that illegal migrants should not be forced to register on the territory of the Republic of Croatia because they prefer more developed countries such as Austria and Germany.
For these reasons, even the Croatian police participate in helping illegal migrants with transport so that they can leave Croatian territory as soon as possible and head towards their target destinations via Slovenia, Germany, and Austria. Croatian citizens who live near the border areas in Vojnić, Slunj, but also Dugave in the area of the capital Zagreb, where there is a reception center for asylum seekers, expressed strong concern. They are afraid to let their children go alone to and from school because of the presence of illegal migrants who are only young men. They do not hesitate to enter the local people’s yards, urinate, and stay in parks where children used to play.
“When young men go to war, they go alone. When young men flee war, they take their wives and children. And at our borders, we see men aged 20 to 40 are alone,” concluded Stipo Mlinarić from the political ‘Movement Domovinski Pokret.’ A left-wing, Predrag Fred Matić, also pointed to the alarming situation in Croatia. He claims that the profile of migrants in Lampedusa is not the same as that of those who enter Croatia from Bosnia.
In Italy, he saw migrant families, while only the young men between the ages of 20 and 50 entered Croatia illegally, without women and children.
MOST member of the Croatian Parliament, Nino Raspudić, pointed out that we do not know what happened to the tens of thousands of soldiers of the Islamic State after its fall and that we do not know how many of these people came as illegal migrants and entered the EU. Today, they are moving freely within those borders.
The problem is not only those sleepers who came as illegal migrants but a permanent problem of people who are 2nd and 3rd generation born within the EU and have not integrated, becoming Islamic terrorists. The best example is the Molenbeek neighbourhood in Brussels, where the people killed on EU soil in those terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris came from such background. So, the situation is alarming, said Nino Raspudić at a recent press conference.
His colleague Nikola Grmoja requested that the discussion of the Committee for National Security, the highest body for citizens’ security, should be opened on the current topic in the Croatian Parliament. He requests that the army go to critical points because the people there are afraid. He describes witnessing with his own eyes that they saw illegal migrants who looked like they were a battalion unit and not like people who needed social assistance.
From what we have witnessed so far in the field around the city of Karlovac, we see that there are no women and children with them; they are all men between the ages of 18 and 24, and there was a lot of anxious video with about 70 young men looking seriously trained and cross the Croatian territory as if there were no borders and no security services from Plitvice to Korenica. The reason for requesting the army’s assistance at critical points on the Croatian borders is that illegal migrants shot at members of the special police force, and we do not want that to happen again. Women in Karlovac are afraid and say that the look of illegal migrants they are becoming is “a look that devours us and despises us at the same time”, Zvonimir Troskot told reporters.
Suppose the Croatian Ministry of Interior thinks that protecting the EU’s external borders makes no sense. In that case, it is no wonder that hundreds of illegal migrants enter the EU daily. The entry of such a corrupt country with distorted values only weakened, rather than strengthened, the Schengen zone and the security of Europeans.
Slovenia’s decision to put back the border controls with Croatia to raise the level of security did not provoke a reaction from the Croatian authorities. They still need the help of other neighboring countries in guarding the external border. They don’t want Frontex in Croatia but in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the regime at the borders is the same as before events in Israel and Gaza, and the level of security has yet to be raised to a higher level.
Statements in the media by the Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, who is currently in the spotlight of a corruption scandal together with his secretary Terezija Gras and the director of the criminal police, Antonio Gerovac, that the Croatian police are the strongest of all the police in Europe were taken as a joke by many countries.
He is saying that 6,700 policemen currently guard the Croatian border. When you divide that number into four shifts and deduct the administration and those absent due to illness or free days, in the best scenario, you have only 1,200 police officers guarding the 1,350-kilometer border. In other words, we have less than one police officer per kilometer of the border. Even if you put 50 people on one kilometer, with these methods that Croatian police officers have, you cannot defend the border, warned criminalist and security expert Željko Cvrtila.
The visa regime of BiH is problematic.
Croatian President Zoran Milanović said he sympathizes with his Slovenian colleagues and fully understands why they suspended Schengen with Croatia. Milanović points out that Europe “has been lost” in terms of migrant and asylum policy for years, and the cause of the problem is in Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e., its visa regime, and that BiH authorities should introduce stricter criteria for entering the country.
“This is the problem of the visa regime that BiH has or does not have with some countries whose citizens freely come to Sarajevo, land at the airport, and then continue to the promenade. This can be put to an end! We need to talk to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina because some countries do not meet the minimum criteria of the EU.
BiH is not in the EU, but if we want to be the same society, we should play by some rules. I won’t say pan-Islamic solidarity, but some kind of levity approach and some illusion of common brotherhood of all Slavs or all Muslims leads to things like this, that people come without any control,” Milanović told us, emphasizing that he expects Austria and Germany, which are the destination, to deal with the problem of illegal migrants who are coming in EU from the Croatian border with Bosnia. [IDN-InDepthNews]
*Schengen is an area comprising 27 European countries that have officially abolished passports and many other types of border control at their mutual borders.
Image source: The Vienna Institute for Economic Studies
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