The respondent began his journey in a group of 4 and travelled from Bihać (BiH) to the border, where he crossed into Croatia. The respondent described the fear the group members had of the Bosnian police while transiting Bihać.
“We have to be very careful in Bihać, because Bosnian police is looking for us and when they see us, they beat us and take us back to Sarajevo.”
Having travelled for many days, the group finally reached Zagreb (Croatia). The members decided to split up at this point and take different routes. The respondent stated how they feared being seen in a visible group would cause them to be deported.
“When police sees four people that look like refugees, they directly take them.”
The respondent was cautious about waiting for the bus in Zagreb. He checked out the exact time of departure, because he knew that police controlled the bus station intensively, and he could not be seen waiting around in public for long periods of time.
“It’s impossible for us to wait for the bus like everybody else. You have to go to the market or elsewhere and then go directly into the bus when it’s departing. When you wait at the station, police is coming.”
When the respondent boarded the bus, two Croatian police officers in civil clothes came towards him and asked him for papers in order to gain proof of his identity, and where the respondent was from. When the respondent stated he was from Palestine, the police ordered him to come with them. The police officers forced him into a car and drove him to a police station in Zagreb. The respondent shared how:
“Two days before, two people from Morocco went to Zagreb and were caught by police. Then the police brought them to the camp. I told this the police officers and asked them: `Why are you not taking me also to the camp? I want asylum, I’m a refugee from Palestine, I have no country! Why do you do this?’”
The respondent showed the police his passport from Palestine, but they ignored it completely. There was no translator present and the police just said in English: “No, no! Shut up! Go, go!” The respondent also requested something to eat and drink, but only received water. The Croatian police didn’t take fingerprints from him, they just forced the respondent to sign some paperwork, which they never gave to him, or offered copy/receipt of. They also searched his entire body and took everything from him, including money, his phone and other personal items After three hours in the police station, the officer came to remove him.
“I said to them: `Please wait my friend, I want to speak with you’, but they just screamed at me: `No! You shut up!´”
Then the two police officers put him into a marked van with seven other people not previously known to the respondent. They were driven for three hours to the Croatian/Bosnian border close to Bihać. The respondent described the car ride as very unpleasant: he felt as if the police officers cooled the backside of the van intentionally down via air conditioner and drove extremely erratically, so that the people inside smashed their heads against each other.
“When the car stopped the police opened the door and screamed `Go, go, go!´ but I stayed inside and said to them: `No, I don’t want to go out, I am from Palestine…´ and they started to hit me with the baton on the head and dragged me out the car.”
In total there were five Croatian police officers and two of them wore balaclavas over their faces. Every officer had a baton in their hand and punched and kicked all of the people, as they went out of the car one by one.
“To me they said that I am very bad, because I tried to argue with them and to explain my situation. They knew that I am not stupid and hit me more than the others, so that I shut up.”
The police officers also took a bag with the belongings of the eight individuals from the police station in Zagreb to the border, but never gave it back to them. The officers even pulled out their phones in front of the respondent and smashed them to the ground and stepped on them. The Croatian officers also stole money from the group, witnessed directly by all the people present. From the respondent they stole 560€.
“Normally the police should have given us all the things back, but they stole and destroyed everything.”
From the border the group had to walk what felt like six hours through the forests back to Bihać. The respondent also stated that they had to be careful not to be seen by Bosnian police upon returning, because according to the interviewee, the police is now not very different from the Croatian police.
“I just want to go somewhere safe, to a new country. I want to change everything and start new.”
The respondent states that of the original group of four he left in, he and two others had been deported, who had also been apprehended after separating in Zagreb.