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They made fun of us

Date & Time 2019-05-17
Location Metaljika, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Reported by Border Violence Monitoring Network
Coordinates 43.55023, 19.153128
Pushback from Bosnia
Pushback to Montenegro
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 2 - 41
Group size 15
Countries of origin Iraq
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, photos taken, no translator present
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 15
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, threatening with guns
Police involved

Three families from Iraqi Kurdistan left Pljevlja (MNE) on 11th May. This was their first attempt to cross the border towards Bosnia.

The respondent’s family consisted of his father (41) his mother (38), himself (21) and his siblings (15, 9, 2). They were with another two families comprised of parents, each with 3 and 2 small children. The respondent cannot recall their age.

They walked through Montenegrin forests and mountains for four days and entered Bosnia on the fifth day.  At this point, the respondent was “very sick” and could not walk without the support of his father, who continued through the mountainous terrain with his arm around his son’s shoulder. They continually fell behind the group and felt ashamed that they were a burden.

In the evening of the 16th May, around 7:00 pm, two blue and white police vans passed the group on a small road near an abandoned farmhouse. The respondent could not recall the precise location of their apprehension. They stopped and ten police officers disembarked from the vehicles and order them to stop. The respondent remembers that many of them had black hair and beards.

The group was asked if they had papers, where they were going and who among them had the best English. This was the father of one of the other families travelling with the respondent’s. He explained to the only officer in the group who spoke poor English that they were on their way to Sarajevo (BiH) where they wanted to apply for asylum. The officer informed the group that they would bring them to a police station and organize their transfer to Sarajevo.

Reassured and glad to avoid walking through the forests for one more night, all 15 entered into one of the vans and were driven a short distance to a police station.

[By now, the respondent was nearly unconscious due to his health problems and could not reconstruct what happened next. His father, who was also present during the interview, took over.]

The group were placed inside a small room in the police station to wait for their ride to Sarajevo. They were informally asked to disclose their nationality. No further questions were put forward, and they didn’t observe the officers writing down anything. During their detention, the group was not given food or water. Some officers filmed them with their smartphones – without asking for permission – while mocking them.

“I think they use this application to change the face from man to woman, with glasses, with beard, with hat, with ears from cat to make fun of us.”

After one hour in the police station, they were informed that now they would be transferred to Sarajevo (BiH). The group were loaded into the same two vans from which they had arrived. In the van, the officers asked for all their registration papers from Montenegro, tore them up and brought the three families to the same place near the abandoned farmhouse where they were first picked up.

“They told us go to this house, sleep and try again, or go back to Montenegro.”

As the other two families exited the car and entered the farmhouse, the respondent’s father and mother asked the officers why they were not brought to Sarajevo (BiH) but to this unsanitary place instead. In response, two officers started shouting at the respondent’s family in Bosnian. They punched the father and older son in the ribs. Next, they attempted to beat the younger boy of 15-years, but the mother prevented them from doing so.

The officers left and the three families spent the night in the old farmhouse.

“It was a place for animals, very dirty and very bad smell.”

[From this point on, the respondent can recall the series of events and re-engages with the interview].

In the morning, around 8am on the 17th of May, the three families left in order to continue their journey towards Sarajevo. The respondent however, due to his bad health condition, decided to split from the rest of the group, together with his father, in an attempt to find medical treatment somewhere.

The respondent was sitting next to the road and his father tried to stop several police cars that passed by, but they just continued driving.

Finally, his father was so desperate and worried about his son that he kneeled down in the middle of the street to force the next police car to stop. Using gestures and hand signs, he asked the police to bring them to the nearest hospital. Some of the officers were the same who detained them the evening before. The officers agreed and drove them approximately 40 minutes always on the same street to a hospital. Based on this description, the hospital was presumable in  Goražde or Foča.

It was not possible to confirm their place of treatment as both hospitals refused to provide information about the incident).

They were escorted to the treatment room by the officers who talked to the hospital staff and left after approximately 5 minutes. Without being asked for documentation, the respondent received treatment from two female and one male doctor.

After 15 minutes, four new police officers arrived. They were wearing the same uniform as the others the group had encountered. They asked one of the doctors to remove the infusion from the respondent’s arm and slapped him in order to make him stand up. They escorted the two men to a police van and brought them to a place in the mountains. Here they handed them over to another police officer in a blue police car.

He drove the two individuals to a point near Metaljika (BiH). He indicated to them the way back to Montenegro and told the men to get on the ground. When they protested against this, he threatened them by pretending to draw his weapon and then left.

The respondent and his father walked arm in arm down the road that the officer had said leads to Montenegro. Both of them were very exhausted.

After a walk of 30 minutes, a truck driver stopped next to them and told them that the street was designed for woodworkers. He continued that if they want to go to Montenegro, they would have backtrack and then turn left.

They walked back, crossed the border into Montenegro and were picked up by Montenegrin police which brought them to the local hospital in Pljevlja. The respondent finally received treatment (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Medical Report from the hospital in Pljevlja