Members of the European Parliament from Italy Brando Benifei, Pietro Bartolo, Pierfrancesco Majorino, and Alessandra Moretti tried to inspect the situation with the migrants on the Croatian-Bosnian border near Bojna but were prevented from reaching the location by armed Croatian police.
Prior to their mission, MEPs Benifei, Bartolo, Majorino, and Moretti received assurances from the Croatian ambassador in Rome that they could visit the Croatian-Bosnian border.
Despite the words of the diplomat a few hundred meters before the border the MEPs were intercepted by armed Croatian police forces and asked to go back.
However, border police now claims that politicians were accompanied by journalists, and that one of them even tried to organize illegal crossing of migrants across the border.
The journalist, who is identified as Paola L., somehow crossed the border and was found by a police patrol on January 30th on the Bosnian side of the border near Bosanska Bojna.
She was is contact with other journalists who accompanied a delegation of politicians from Italy who came to see what is happening on the border.
“The journalist asked members of the Border Police to let a group of illegal migrants pass towards Croatia so that MEPs (Members of European parlieament) could see how the Croatian police are treating them,” said adviser to the director of the Bosnian Border Police, Svevlad Hoffmann.
Bosnian Border police officers resolutely rejected such a request, and warned the journalist that she herself was violating the regulations by moving through a protected border zone, and ordered her to leave.
She obeyed at that moment, but later in the afternoon, the border police found her again in the same place, and with her there were 11 illegal migrants from Afghanistan.
Police prevented them from trying to cross the border and returned them to a migrant reception center in Velika Kladusa.
Hoffmann explained that the investigation into this case is still ongoing, and that it is not excluded that a criminal or misdemeanor report will be filed against the Italian journalist.
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic called a visit of politicians and journalists a provocation, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic a kind of political show, adding that no one can be allowed to break the law.
“It was not an official delegation of the European Parliament. I was an European parliament member, I know how official visits are organized, which was not the case here“, said Plenkovic.
On the other hand, Party of European Socialists (PES) condemned attempts by Croatian authorities to obstruct Socialist and Democratic MEPs from determining whether reports of inhumane conditions for migrants at the Croatian-Bosnian border are true
PES President Sergei Stanishev said:
“The fact that armed police were waiting ready to intercept MEPs speaks for itself. This is a very serious incident which brings into questions the judgement of Croatian authorities. My four colleagues from Partito Democratico were simply trying to reach the border to see the conditions on the ground. There have been many worrying reports about the situation in the area and the European Parlament has to right to check what is happening. We expect Croatian authorities, and all EU authorities, to act reasonably in the spirit of openness and accountability.”