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I asked for an advocate and a translator, but the police said 'no'

Date & Time 2019-01-05
Location near Gradiška, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Reported by Border Violence Monitoring Network
Coordinates 45.15918769, 17.24069029
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 20 - 28
Group size 4
Countries of origin Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, fingerprints taken, personal information taken, papers signed, no translator present
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 8-13
Violence used theft of personal belongings
Police involved 5-10 Croatian police officers, 1 police car and 2 police vans; 3 SFA police officers in Bosnia driving one dark blue van

Four Moroccan men left Velika Kladuša (BiH) on April 26 at around 5:00PM. They walked to the Croatian border and, after crossing it, walked through the forest for five days inside the country. They slept when it was daylight and walked at night. During this time they never exited the forest.

On May 1 around 11:00AM, three Croatian police officers wearing dark blue uniforms approached the group members in the forest, while they were lying down to rest. The respondent believed that these officers had been watching them at night with night-vision goggles and that they waited for the individuals to rest before approaching them.

The officers asked the men where they were from.

“I told them we are all Moroccan and they told us to lie on the ground and wait. Then they took our phones and money (100 Euro).”

After five minutes, two more officers arrived, a man and a woman around 35 years old. The group was then led to a spot where a white police van and car were parked. They were loaded into the van and transferred to a police station, which was a 20-30 minute drive from their site of apprehension.

At the station, the police questioned each individual. They asked how many people were in the group, how many days they walked from Bosnia into Croatia, why they left Morocco, and which airport they left from in Morocco. The respondent answered all their questions. He then gave his fingerprints and signed a paper.

The group stayed for two days in the station, where they were locked in a room with more people-on-the-move who had also been apprehended. The respondent did not disclose the nationalities, age or gender or these other inmates. They all slept on the floor of the cell. Access to a toilet, food and water were provided when requested.

During this time, the respondent and his group requested asylum.

The police returned the other inmates in their jail cell to Bosnia. However, the respondent and his three group members were not returned. They were informed that their asylum application had been refused. After two days, the police told them they must go to a closed camp in Zagreb (HRV).

“I asked him ‘why’? They said it’s the second time they catch us in Croatia so we must go to closed camp.”

According to the respondent, while the four men were detained in the station, the Croatian police accused them of forcible robbery. He continued that the police refused his request for an attorney and forced him to sign papers acknowledging that he had committed this deed – all without any translation or understanding of the documents he had signed.

“I told the police I do not understand the document, but they would not give me a translator.”

The respondent became aware of this retrospectively. After he returned to Bosnia, a local person translated the documents for him. He then understood of which crime he had been accused.

The respondent stated his innocence. He stressed that the group had remained in the forest the entire time they were in Croatia, and they did not encountered any other individuals who they could have robbed.

Nevertheless the group was sent to the closed camp in Zagreb. They stayed here for two months.

The group was driven by the police for half an hour from the police station to this closed camp. Upon their arrival, they were ordered to take off their clothes and put on dark blue Lotto brand clothes.

Upon their arrival, they were put in a six person room with bunk beds. The respondent reported that guards in the camp were not violent, but that some of them were racist and discriminatory. They were fed three times a day and the camp respected their Ramadan practices, making food available to them after sun down and in the early hours of the morning before the first light of day.

On May 29, after 25 days in the closed camp, two police officers ordered them in a police van and drove them to the Gradiška border crossing at the Croatian/Bosnian border. The Croatian police handed the four men over to the Bosnian SFA authorities, who gave the men a document explaining that they must leave Bosnia within five days and drove the individuals to the Ušivak (BiH) camp in Sarajevo in a black van.