FILE - A Croatian border crossing is seen at Bregana, Croatia, July 1, 2013.
FILE - A Croatian border crossing is seen at Bregana, Croatia, July 1, 2013.

A human rights watchdog said in a report Friday that it does not agree with the European Commission's assessment that Croatia is ready to join the 26-nation, border-free Schengen zone.

Human Rights Watch said the commission's assessment "willfully brushes over evidence” of Croatia’s “violent pushbacks at migrants at its borders,” sending the message that “serious human rights abuses are no obstacle to Schengen accession.”

Lydia Gall, the organization's Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher, said “Croatia’s unlawful and violent summary returns of asylum seekers and migrants should disqualify it from joining the Schengen Area.”

The rights group said Croatian Interior Ministry State Secretary Terezija Gras affirmed in a meeting with the group earlier this year that Croatia would investigate all migrant complaints about police mistreatment.  HRW said, however, Gras “could not say how many complaints the authorities had received...nor could she explain how a migrant pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina would be able to file a complaint with the authorities in Croatia.”

HRW urged the European Council to reassess Croatia’s compliance with the EU Schengen Borders Code.   

“Letting Croatia join Schengen when migrants and asylum seekers continue to be brutally pushed back would be an EU green light for abuses,” Gall said.  “The European Commission should not just accept Croatia’s empty promises, but ensure that Schengen criteria are truly met, which is clearly not happening now.”