Afghan referee thinks EU border policy is unfair

Because of sportsmanship and fair competition, Ibrahim Rasul loves the job of football referees

VELIKA KLADUSA, Bosnia and Herzegovina-Ibrahim Rasool loves his football refereeing job because of his sportsmanship and fair play. But the 33-year-old man from Afghanistan said that the European Union’s treatment of people who flock to its borders in search of a better life is unfair.

Rasool told the Associated Press that the Croatian police ignored the request of a pregnant woman and a family with children, and instead deported him and 16 others back to Bosnia when they crossed the border into EU countries this month.

Rasool provided the video, which he said was taken in a Croatian police car and in the forest on the border between Croatia and Bosnia. Rasool stated that the Croatian police insulted those who tried to break in and told them to return to Afghanistan.

The Croatian police did not respond to the Associated Press’ request for information about the November 10 border incident.

“The police did not (concern) children, pregnant women, (yes) women, no one paid attention to them,” Rasol said. “They showed (us) the gun, (say)’Don’t move. Stop. We are the police.'”

The video provided by Rasool shows people huddling in a fenced mobile truck, including women and children. In the forest video, men use blankets to hold a woman who is obviously pregnant. Neither of these two videos can be independently verified.

Rasol said that the Croatian police told the organization that there is no room for Afghans in the EU, calling these immigrants “animals” and “dirty people.”

The Croatian police are facing multiple charges for shutting out immigrants and refugees and using violence for this purpose. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Croatia in a postponed case in 2017, after which a 6-year-old Afghan girl was hit and killed by a train.

Although the Croatian authorities were forced to suspend three special police officers who were filmed of beating migrants with truncheons and forcing them to leave Croatia last month, they rejected allegations of systematic and widespread abuse of migrants in the border area.

Rasool and his team were trapped in a temporary camp near the Bosnian border town of Velika Kladusa. Apart from temporary tents, the camp has no other facilities, but Rasool said it is still better than the official immigration camp, “because we are free.”

After leaving Afghanistan four years ago, Rasul went to Iran first, then Turkey and Greece. After staying in Greece for more than three years, he came to Bosnia through Albania and Montenegro two months ago. Despite being turned away from the Croatian border many times, Rasool and his fellow immigrants will try to cross the border again as soon as possible.

When immigrants arrive in Croatia, they will first go to Italy or Slovenia, and then to the wealthiest country in Western Europe. Thousands of people are still stranded in the Balkans, looking for opportunities to enter the European Union.

“We cannot stay in Bosnia because the weather will (be) very cold soon,” Rasool said.

Rasool provided the Associated Press with his FIFA-approved referee certificate and photos of some of the hundreds of games he handled in Afghanistan. He said he had fled his homeland because of differences with the management of the Afghan Football Association.

“I want to continue my work, I want to return to a normal life,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which country.”

He said that during his stay in Greece, Rasool coached the refugee team. In Bosnia, one can see him playing football with children in the camp and other men. Returning to Afghanistan is not an option, especially after NATO forces withdraw and the Taliban take over again.

But Rasol said that the treatment at the Croatian border severely shook his hopes for a better future for the West. When he tried to cross the border into Croatia for the fourth time, the police took all his money and mocked him and others.

“They steal things from refugees,” he said. “They think we are animals, not humans.”

He said that the Taliban, Croatia and other EU governments are making fun of people’s lives.

He said: “If the EU accepts the position of the Croatian border police”, then it is no better than the Taliban.

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Follow AP’s report on migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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