On the 12th of February, the respondent left the Bosnian town of Sturlic to cross the border with Croatia in a group of approximately 40 people. The group consisted of one family (the parents and two children of 6-7 years old) and young men aged between 15 and 25 years old.
After walking for one hour in Croatian territory -the respondent described it to be during nighttime-, six Croatian uniformed men approached the group and surrounded them. The respondent, as well as the others, chose to kneel down when that happened. The respondent believed that if they had tried to escape, ‘the police would have caught them and caused them a lot of problems’.
Everyone was then asked to introduce themselves and tell the officers their country of origin. They were also reportedly asked to reveal who the ‘boss’ of the group was. The respondent understood they were looking for the group leader who guided the way, but nobody answered.
After that, the officers tried to find someone who spoke English. The only woman in the group, the mother of the family, said she could speak some English. The respondent reported that this made the police officers put a lot of pressure on her to tell them who the leader was. Then, another man told the officers that he also spoke some English, which, according to the respondent, made the police suspicious of him. He reportedly kept telling the officers that he did not know who within the group had a phone. In reaction to this claim, the officers allegedly started hitting him. According to the respondent, they kicked and punched him several times, and his nose ended up bleeding: ‘we all heard a bad sound when they kicked him.’
Afterwards, another man was separated from the group. The respondent described that one of the uniformed men had a conversation with him while the rest of the group was asked to keep their heads down, but the respondent heard the conversation:
‘If you are Muslim you should go to Arabic countries, why are you coming here?’, the officer asked. The man answered: ‘We want to go to Zagreb’ but the officer told him: ‘You lie, you will take a ticket to go to Slovenia and then to Italy, you only want to stay here a short time and you don’t have a place in Europe’.
The uniformed men then started to search all of the group members. They were wearing gloves and started with the mother of the family. Everyone, including one female police officer -who, the respondent believed, was the boss of the unit- were reportedly looking at the male officer ‘touching every part of the body of the woman’, who had to take off her clothes beforehand. She only had one shirt and one pair of trousers left and started crying. ‘It was a very bad thing for all of us’, the respondent remembers. After this, they allegedly strip-searched the children and took some of their clothes and then, did the same with all the others. During this action, all their money was reportedly taken from them.
Afterwards, two big vans arrived, and 20 people had to go in each van. They were driving for what felt for the respondent like 6-7 hours. The officers drove in a very reckless way, according to the respondent, which caused some of the people to vomit on the way. When they reached the borderlands near the Lipa camp (Bosnia), everyone was told to leave the van. At this point, the officers reportedly searched them again.
Then the group walked back to Bihac. On the way, Bosnian policemen stopped them and told them to go to the camp in Lipa.