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When we asked for water, the Croatian police told us 'This is not a hotel.'

Date & Time 2019-02-07
Location 33 km from Bihac
Reported by Border Violence Monitoring Network
Coordinates 45.033085, 15.759291
Pushback from Croatia, Slovenia
Pushback to Bosnia, Croatia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 1 - 20
Group size 8
Countries of origin Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, India
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, personal information taken, no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 5 Croatian police officers; unknown number of Slovenian police officers
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, insulting, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
Police involved Unknown number of Slovenian police officers; 5 regular Croatian police officers; 1 Slovenian police van; 2 Croatian police vans

Although this report describes a chain pushback – from Slovenia to Croatia and then from Croatia to Bosnia – this report and the summary of the report focuses on the pushback procedure from Croatia to Bosnia due to the respondent’s ability to provide more details on this segment of his ordeal.

On the morning of Sunday, June 30th, a 20-year-old Indian man traveling in a taxi with his visa and Indian passport was apprehended by Slovenian authorities around 4-5 km passed the Slovenian-Croatian border near the Italian-Slovenian border. He had been in the taxi for around ten minutes and the taxi was driving through a small Slovenian village at this point. The respondent does not remember the exact location of where he was apprehended or pushbacked to Croatia.

The Slovenian authorities took him to a police station near the border where the respondent expressed an intention to claim asylum in the country and stated that he had papers, both a visa and an Indian passport. The Slovenian police then used a translator to listen to his story and, as he says, his asylum request and wrote it down. The respondent did not sign anything. The authorities then informed him that his asylum request was denied. He asked them why, but did not receive a response. The respondent recalled that Slovenian authorities told him that they had a surprise for him and when he was later brought to the Croatian border to be handed to the Croatian police, he was told that this was his surprise. The respondent did not provide an accurate description of what the Slovenian officers looked like. The Croatian police he identified as wearing light blue shirts.

After being handed over to the Croatian police, the respondent was taken to a police station near the border and put in a room with 7 to 8 other people-in-transit, all men, at sometime between 10:00 or 11:00 am . At this police station, the respondent described being struck by the police officers present and witnessing his luggage, belongings and turban thrown into the trash. When he told the police that he had a passport and visa in his bag and asked for these documents back, they beat him for a long time, as the respondent described, “just for asking”. The Croatian officers then seized his passport and visa which the respondent no longer has in possession.

Unlike the Slovenian police, whom the respondent said gave him food, water and would not beat him, the Croatian police would not give him water and food and were physically violent towards him. On the morning of Tuesday July 2nd, the Croatian authorities present at the station loaded the respondent into a police van at around 10:00 or 11:00 am, along with seven other people-in-transit. The seven other people he did not identify by exact age but did identify one Syrian family with an older man, a mother and two young daughters who the interviewee says are not minors. There was additionally one Bangladeshi man present. The rest of the people were described as Pakistani. The authorities drove them from for around 9 hours, until 7:00 or 8:00 pm from the Slovenian-Croatian border to the Croatian-Bosnian border in a hot van without providing water or food. When the people-in-transit in the van asked for water, the Croatian police replied: “This is not a hotel.”

The respondent then described spending between two and three hours at the border. About four to five Croatian police were present: one female police officer and three to four male police officers. The police officers wore black pants and blue shirts, fitting the description for Croatian regular (Temeljna) police officers. The female police officer was seen writing down information and did not wear a mask while some of the male police officers wore black balaclavas and black gloves. For about ten to twenty minutes, the police made the people-in-transit collect garbage in the area. After this, the Croatian police told them to sit and when they sat down, the police beat them on their bodies with batons, especially on their backs and legs. The respondent described that some of the group ran into the forest at this point to avoid the beating however, he sat and received the beating. During this time, there was another van visible at the location in which the respondent described there being an additional 25 to 30 men in transit that were also pushed back. The respondent was not sure where they were from. As they exited the van, the Croatian police beat them with batons.

The respondent was not able to identify the exact location of the pushback however identified it as being near “mountains” about 33 kilometers away from Bihac. Along the border runs a river which is parallel to a road. The interviewee did not recall from what direction he came into Bihac because he used a taxi to get back into Bihac and to avoid the police, the taxi travelled on small roads and through small villages, avoiding main roads and populated places, and travelled downhill. The location of the pushback for this report is thus an estimation.