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All things on fire

Date & Time 2021-10-06
Location near road 216, Croatia
Reported by Aid Brigade Sarajevo
Coordinates 45.023368, 15.764446
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 20 - 30
Group size 20
Countries of origin Pakistan, India, Nepal
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 10
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings
Police involved 2 Croatian police officers, 8 officers that most likely belong to the Croatian Intervention police

The interviewee started his journey from Zlopoljac, BiH, with the aim of reaching Italy together with a group of 20 people, including two women. They started their trek on the morning of the 10th of June.

After an eight-hour hike through BiH, the group members reached the Croatian border. During the hike, the members of the group only took short breaks to eat or drink something. After crossing the Croatian border, they continued walking on the main road for about an hour. The respondent described that during the walk a car drove past them and just five to ten minutes later a police car arrived with two police officers in blue uniforms.

The officers stopped the car and walked towards the group members while firing into the air, screaming at them to stop. Then, the group members were asked to give them their phones and power banks. The officers told them that they would give them back their electronic devices once they would reach the Bosnian border. Subsequently, the whole group of 20 had to enter in one police car. According to the respondent, the group members had to sit on the floor, and on top of each other.

In a 40-minutes drive, the group was directly driven to the Croatian-Bosnian border, where eight masked police officers in black uniforms were waiting for them. The description of the uniforms that the respondent provided matches the uniforms normally worn by the Croatian Intervention Police. The respondent could not provide the exact location of the pushback as it was dark outside, but his description of their particular pushback spot corresponds to the description in other testimonies. He said that once they reached the border it was already midnight and completely dark outside. The respondent claimed that once they left the police car the whole transit group got beaten by the police.

“They put their sticks out and beat. Eight police officers, with black masks.”

After the pushback, the respondent showed wounds on his back, arms, and legs from the beating. He reported that the women in the group were not beaten by the officers. Afterward, the group members were forced to take off their shoes and clothes. They were forced to throw all their belongings, including their bags containing sleeping bags, tents, food, and water, into a pile.

“Remove here and throw it there. All things, water, food, all things. All things are on fire. shoes, socks. Only one trousers and one shirt.”

The members of the transit group were left with only one shirt and one pair of trousers. Their phones were not, as promised earlier, given back to them.

“When they came they said, we give you. We give you phone. When we come to deport they burn. They smash the phone there.”

The officers destroyed all phones and put them, together with their other belongings, on fire. Afterward, the group was forced to cross the border into Bosnia. To reach the Bosnian side of the border, the group members had to cross three rivers. The first one was ankle-high, the second knee-high, and the water from the third river reached their hips. The respondent stated that they were scared while crossing it, as they had heard that two months ago a boy was killed by the river, while he was forced to cross it.

“They beat and say jump on first river. Second river, third river.”

The officials forced the group members to jump into the river, which is full of sharp stones, as the respondent describes it. “They cut on this side, at the bottom. It bleeds a lot. The stones are very sharp.” Due to the injury from the stone, two group members were unable to continue their way back to Bihac. The remaining group members organized a tent for them from some locals that they met, in which they stayed for two more days until a doctor arrived and eventually their feet recovered. The rest of the group walked the 25 km back to Zlopoljac in their soaked clothes.