The interview was conducted with a 12-year-old boy speaking excellent English and his mother through the help of her son’s translation.
On August 19, 2021, two families (in total 13 people including 9 minors) left Sturlic, BiH on foot to cross the border trying the “game”. After several hours of walking and after successfully crossing the border into Croatia the group stopped to rest in front of a mosque in Dzemat Bogovolja. There the group was seen by a Croatian police car. Two officers got out and told the group not to move and called for reinforcements. After a couple of minutes, a van arrived with two officers. After the description of their uniforms, supposedly members of the special police Interventna Jednica Policija (IJP).
The respondent reports that the police seized and retained power banks, four phones, and the equivalent of 500 € from the group. The respondent reports that he saw one of the officers pocket the 500 € and take the cell phones into the van. When asked to explain, the officer hit the respondent (12 years old) with his baton on the back and slapped him.
After being robbed the two families were loaded into the van (Iveco Daily IV 2009 PTV car plate: 050 360). Thirteen of them were transported in a van that could normally carry 6 people. There was no window in the back of the van and it was not possible to breathe well. The police officers drove for about half an hour, very fast and jerkily so that the people in the van were constantly rolling from side to side.
“Inside the van we were very scared. I was mostly afraid for my parents, I was afraid they were going to get beat up really bad.I don’t know if they would have survived, I told them to go first, that they would beat me last! We just wanted to ask for asylum, what should we do? In the van you couldn’t breathe, it was very bad.”
Once they arrived at the border, some officers took the two families out of the van. There were two additional police officers, different from the ones who had stopped them at the border. The policemen intimidated the families and forced them to cross the border. At that moment, a family member formalized his request for asylum and one of the agents replied: “it is not my business, my boss decides. Go! Go away!”
Before crossing the border, the respondent asked to get their phones back and, as a result, an agent slapped him again and also hit his brother who is a minor with some mental problems. “My brother is now very scared, every time he sees a car he yells: police!”
After forcing the families to cross the border (threatening the use of pepper spray) the respondent and his mother reported that the policemen put on black face masks and chased the families with batons into Bosnian territory.
“We all started running scared, I felt like an animal, I was in a lot of pain and I wanted to cry,” the respondent stated. After all this, the two families had to walk back to Sturlic marching for more than 20 kilometers.