At approximately 11:00 on the 9th January 2020, the transit group were stopped by two Croatian police officers while walking “in the jungle” (approximate coordinate 45.713556,15.372339 HR). The group consisted of seven males aged between 24-26 years old from Morocco and Algeria. The policemen, both wearing black uniforms with the police emblem and one wearing a ski mask, were hiding behind trees so that the respondents did not see them until one of them had a gun pointed at the respondent’s forehead. The officer said:
“Stop and sit down”
The transit group stopped and the two police officers forced them to sit by pushing them to the ground. The police asked the respondents how many people were in the group and ordered them to arrange themselves in a line. In line, the respondents were escorted out of the woods to the street where a police van was waiting. According to the respondent, the police told the transit group that their colleagues were arriving soon with pictures from cameras, to see if the respondents had lied about the number of people in their group.
In the street, the respondents were again forced to the ground. The respondents were kneeling down with their foreheads on the ground with their backpack still on. “Don’t look at me”, said the police officer wearing the ski mask. When one respondent moved his head up from the ground, the officer wearing the ski mask hit him. According to the respondent, this officer was the only one speaking and giving orders to the transit group:
“just kagool (ski mask) speaks with you”
One by one, police ordered the respondents to stand up and “take off everything”, so that their clothes could be searched The respondents had to undress completely and stand naked in front of the officers. Police asked the respondents to hand over their phones and power-banks. Police searched one respondent’s backpack and found his powerbank inside. The officer who found the item asked the owner:
“Why didn’t you give this?”
The owner of the powerbank answered:
“I am sorry, I forgot”
The officers reaction was to beat this individual with his college, targeting the respondents head with their hands. The police set fire to the respondent’s backpack and threw a camping gas canister into the fire, some other clothes, food and another respondent’s power-bank. The respondents allege that the police were laughing while burning their belongings. One respondent tried to take his backpack off because “it’s very heavy”, but the police officers stopped him. “No”, they said. An officer proceeded to take another respondent’s backpack and put it on the back of the respondent for roughly 10 minutes.
After searching the transit groups clothes and bags, the police ordered the respondents to quickly put on their clothes. “Quick quick quick”, police told the respondents. The respondents allege they spent approximately 45-60 minutes here. The whole time, except while being frisked, the respondents were kneeling on the ground in the coerced position mentioned above.
At approximately 12:00, two male and one female Croatian police officers wearing black uniforms arrived in a second police van. One of the male officers was also wearing a ski mask. The respondent already knew the female police officer from a previous pushback (November 30, 2019 22:00 – Near Buhača, Croatia – Border Violence Monitoring Network). “Another time you?”, the officer told him and then turned to her colleagues and said “don’t touch him, I know this person”. The group was loaded into the second police van and waited in the van for roughly 10 minutes. Another police car arrived, in which two male and one female police officers wearing blue uniforms were sitting. The car and the second van drove together for roughly 20 minutes to a police station.
At approximately 12:30, they arrived at a police station. The respondent believes that he was in a police station in Karlovac (HR), as the female police officer who recognized him told when they arrived, “you are in Karlovac”. In the police station, two police officers asked the respondents for their personal information like full name, country of origin, age, name of the parents, city and address in their country of origin and signature. The respondent affirms:
“I [and another respondent] have fingerprints in Croatia, I just tell them my code”
According to the respondent, this ‘code’ is the identification number previously assigned to him by the Croatian police. In total, four police officers dealt with the group in the police station: the female officer wearing black uniform whom the respondent already knew and three police officers (one woman and two men) wearing blue uniforms. All of them had the police emblem on their uniform. No official translator was present in the police station.
Frontal pictures of the respondents’ face were taken. When photographed, the respondents were holding a piece of paper reporting their name and country of origin. The respondents were forced to quickly signed some documents written in Arabic which they did not have time to read nor understand. “I don’t know what is this”, says the respondent.
The respondent alleges that he addressed the female police officer whom he already knew and told her:
“I have fingerprints here, if you want to help me and my friend with asylum”
The policewoman answered:
“I am sorry, no asylum here. If you want asylum go to Zagreb, no asylum here in Karlovac”
One respondent asked for food but was denied this. In the cell there was a squat toilet covered by a blanket. One of the respondents asked to go to the toilet and police told him to lift the blanket up and use the squat toilet. After roughly two hours in the cell, another two people from Morocco were brought to police station and put in the same cell.
The respondents remained in this cell until approximately 22.00 on the 9th January 2020. The respondents (now a transit group of nine) were ordered to leave the station and were physically forced inside a police van. The van had no windows so the respondents could not see outside. The cold air conditioning was turned on in the back of the van; it was “so cold”, according to the respondents. Two male Croatian police officers wearing black uniforms drove the van recklessly (swerving left and right) to the border.
After approximately one hour, the van arrived to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina (approximately 45.146215,15.774358, BiH), at roughly 23:00. At the border there were five police officers waiting, four of which were wearing ski masks and black uniforms and the fifth one wearing civilian clothes and a police hat. One by one, the respondents exited the police van. Two of the respondents were beaten with batons by three of the officers. One officer addressed the last two respondents who exited the van and told them
“Don’t come another time because this is bad for you.”
The officers gave the respondents a plastic bag containing their phones and power-banks which were all now broken.
“I am sure they broke it in the police station.”
“Go Bosnia”, police told the group. The transit group walked for roughly one hour, reaching the city of Velika Kladusa (BiH) at approximately 01:00 on the 10th January 2020.