The group of 16 Afghans in this incident left from an area close to Sturlic (BiH) on 5th April 2020 by foot and crossed into Croatia. The group was made up of males aged between 19 and 40 years old. They walked for one day in the Croatian forest. On the following day (6th April 2020) one man in the group collapsed and was unable to walk. The respondent said that the individual was unwell and was unable to move or communicate with the others. The respondent described how the man:
“fell down on the ground, not able to wake up or talk”
The group became very concerned for the man and were not sure what injury/illness he may have. They picked him up and carried him to the closest village to seek help.
The transit group came to a road with some houses and looked for someone to assist.
“We were going through a village”
The respondent says he was looking for Croatian police officers and wanted to ask for them to bring medical attention for the man. Eventually the respondent saw one police officer and approached him asking for help.
“I went to him, ‘we need help our friend is hurt'”
“we gave ourselves to Croatian police”
The officer attended to the group of 16 and came to see the condition of the man who the others had lain out on the floor. The initial officer, wearing black uniform, was described as “behaving nice” and allegedly assured the transit group that the police would help them get him to a hospital. The officer called back-up and approximately seven police officers arrived at the location on the road.
The officers were dressed in black uniforms matching the first policeman they met. They came in two marked police vehicles, one described as a smaller car, and one in a larger car. These officers were reported to be rude and not as accommodating as the first. Immediately they began to act roughly with the 15 people who were standing. They searched the groups bags and ordered them to give over their personal belongings such as mobile phones (the respondent said only one person was able to retain their phone by hiding it).
Despite the respondents requests for medical attention, the officers did nothing for the man who was lying on the floor. Describing the authorities behavior, the respondent shared how “they even didn’t touch” the man, and made no efforts to check on his physical state. Soon after all the bags had been searched and possessions removed, a further officer brought a
vehicle into which the group were loaded.
“bring a car like a combi and put us in the car and bring us to the Bosnian border”
The sixteen people were loaded into the back of the police van together. As the officers refused to touch or assist the man on the floor, the group members themselves had to pick him up and convey him to the van as he was still unable to walk and not verbally responsive. The van drove the group a short distance to the border with BiH and unloaded them from the back (again forcing the group members to carry the injured person).
At the border, described as an area of countryside, the police ordered the group of people to place their bags, jackets and possessions in a pile.
“they took all, they start burning it, and after that they start beating”
After setting fire to the groups clothing the respondent shared how they were attacked by the 7/8 officers who used batons (“black sticks”) to hit the group all over their bodies. 15 of the people were beaten in this fashion (the ill person was lying on the ground at this time) and the assault by the police officers caused injury to many of the group. This included two people who were beaten until they bled from their heads.
“they beat us with, a black stick”…”broke two persons head”
The police then ordered them to leave and walk back to BiH. It is estimated that they were pushed back across the border at approximately 20:20 on 6th April 2020. The respondent said that there was “water” in the border, matching the location of the Korana river which runs along the area identified by the respondent to be south of Sturlic (BiH). The group had to carry the injured man across the river because he was still unable to walk and in a bad condition.
The respondent said the group walked for around 20 minutes until they came across a road (45″01’53.9″N, 15″46’12.4″E). Here they stopped and called a local person for assistance. The call was at approximately 20:40. The group pinned their location, and took photographs of a sign which marked them as in the wider Trzac area (BiH).
The local person called the ambulance first, then somebody from the local government in Sturlic (BiH), before finally arranging for the police to pick the transit group up. According to the local person, the ambulance said they were busy and could not attend, despite the description of the unresponsive male who was injured.
Around an hour later the Bosnian police arrived at the marked location and collected three people from the group. This included the originally injured person, and the two people who had suffered impact blows from the beating carried out by the Croatian police. The other thirteen people had to walk back to Bihac (BiH) on foot which the respondent describes as taking around 13 hours.
The group were helped by local people who gave food and clothes, however the respondent suggests that the injured man taken to the hospital was not fully treated, and attributes this to a policy related to Corona.
“the person who was injured, the police took him, the hospital said ‘we wont take him’, because Corona”
The local person who assisted also shared that one of the group had a sever wrist/hand injury from baton strikes. However the police did not take this person to the hospital, and the man remains untreated, Describing the episode as a whole the respondent shared how he was frustrated with the treatment they received at the hands of the Croatian police:
“i was really disappointed with their behavior”
At the time of interview, the people affected by this case continue to sleep inside abandoned buildings and are unable to access camps because the respondents suggests there is either no-space, or they are “scared of going to Lipa” (a new large tent camp being constructed south east of Bihac).