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Push-back and 'confiscation' despite voluntary departure

Date & Time 2019-06-18
Location Bileća, Bosnia
Reported by Border Violence Monitoring Network
Coordinates 42.80785, 18.485324
Pushback from Bosnia
Pushback to Montenegro
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 5 - 37
Group size 8
Countries of origin Palestine, Syria, Iraq
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved NA
Violence used theft of personal belongings
Police involved 5 Bosnian border police officers, possibly one officer in civilian clothes

The report is about a group of eight people who were voluntarily returning to Montenegro from Bosnia on June 18. The group consisted of two Palestinian men from Syria, one man from Iraq, and one family of Syrian-Palestinians consisting of a husband, wife and three children.

The group was on their way back to Greece from Croatia and Bosnia after several unsuccessful attempts to reach a northern European country. The two young Syrian men were pushed back to Bihać by the Croatian police on the same day when they caught them at the train station in “Buzet” near the Slovenian border on the June 11. The family and the young Iraqi men also experienced illegal push-backs by the Croatian police in May 2019. Even though they expressed their request for asylum several times to the Croatian authorities, it was ignored by the Croatian police.

The whole group met in Bihać again on the June 13 and decided to go back to Greece together. The main reason for their decision was the need to recover from the attempts to cross Croatia and the hardships experienced during the push-backs committed by the Croatian police. According to very harsh circumstances and conditions in the border regions in Northern Bosnia, they were scared to experience physical police violence openly on the streets in Bosnia.

“The people from Bihać hate the refugees a lot. But I have also a hard situation at my home, I can’t come back.”

They began their transit attempt back to Greece on June 18. In the center of Bileća (BiH) a civilian stopped his car as he passed the group on the street. He stopped the group and asked them where they want to go. They didn’t want to speak to him and replied that they wanted to go to Montenegro. The men didn’t believe them and said that he will help the group and call a friend that would bring them to Mostar (BiH). The respondent, however, believed that the man called the police. The respondent believed that this individual was a police in civilian clothes.

After ten minutes, five border police officers in black uniforms came to pick up all of the group up in two vans. They were brought to a point in the woods, and the police took almost all of their money. From there they walked seven hours until the group members called the Montenegrin police to help them, because they were starving and didn’t have any more money to buy food. Two police officers arrived and said that they could only help them to call for a taxi that could bring them to Nikšić (MNE) for 50 €. The respondent explained to them, that they are not able to pay the 50€ because the Bosnian police took almost all of their money from them at the border. The Montenegrin police officers, who the respondent believed looked like border police, arranged a taxi which brought them for free to Nikšić.