On February 20, 2019, a group of 40 (among them minors) left from Velika Kladuša. After they crossed the border to Croatia, they continued walking through the country for six days for around 120 kilometers.
On February 26, at approximately 1.30 am, the group was apprehended by five Croatian officers – four men and one woman, dressed in blue uniforms.
They were told to wait, and five or ten minutes later another four vans with windowless backspaces arrived to the scene. The group of 40 had to enter those and was driven to a police station.
There, they were searched and their food, money, jackets, bags, shoes and phones were taken. Although the officers told them they would give them back their belongings, once they returned to Bosnia, they immediately broke the “bad” phones. Afterwards, they had to hold a sign with their home country and cities written on it and photos were taken, but no fingerprints. They were all made to sign documents in English, which they didn’t understand.
The group of 40 was detained for 14 hours at the police station in a badly ventilated room. The respondent complained to an officer about the lack of air.
“[If] this room have two people or three people, it‘s ok… but more people, it’s not have oxygen…I tell police…it’s not have water…somebody dead”.
The room was very crowded and too small for 40 people. They also didn’t receive any food or water, even though they asked for it.
“He said no water, why would I give you water. Go to Bosnia there you have water.”
Later, the group was driven three hours to the border and released at around 8 pm. At the border there were twenty officers, half of them dressed in standard Croatian police uniforms, half of them completely black and with balaclavas as stated by the respondent.
“Only coming on Bosnian border, the black police…only black police beat.”
The 40 individuals had to get off the vans one-by-one and were immediately beaten by the officers with batons and kicked with their heavy boots:
“Foot, sticks, everything…they beat everyone.”
“I do not understand why he hit me…why crazy in Croatian police…Why too much crazy we don’t know…so not a humanity…why too much hate…why you hit me, why you need my everything.”
The respondent compared the abuse several times with the picture of the officers playing football, but using the men as their ball.
Afterwards, the group of 40 walked back around 25 to 30 kilometers to Velika Kladuša (BIH).
At the end of the interview, the respondent mentioned his poor mental health several times and connected this to his continued problems in transit:
“I have a depression, I think one time I will [become] mad, because I have too much depression, I have a family depression, I have a for my life depression what time I make a good life… no suffer this life…I don’t like this life in Bosnia.”