In the early hours of Tuesday 21st November 2019 a transit group of four men were apprehended by police at Tovarnik train station (HR). Hidden in a freight carriage of a train loaded with sand, they were detected by Croatian border officials at around 02:30. The two officers scouring the trailer where quick to remove the four transit people and bring them outside.
One of respondents recalled how they were located in a hollow in the sand and as they tried to exit, one of the group members was pulled out by his hair by one officer. The offending officer then delivered two fist punches to the respondents head, the officer shouting “pičku mater”, as the respondent was not deemed to be emerging from the sand quick enough. Outside the train the four group members found another five Croatian officers awaiting them. They were guarding more people-in-transit who appeared to have been apprehended from different trailers. Among them was a five/six year old boy with his father.
The four respondents, together with everybody else, had to sit down on the cold ground, and the officers withdrew more people from the carriages where they were concealed. Sitting and waiting, they had their information taken by the officers, such as names and nationality. This was done by a female officer, noting the details on a clipboard. The respondent could not assess the exact amount of people-on-the-move that were being held beside the tracks, but guessed it to be over 40 people.
No more violence was used around the train station. The respondent suggested this was the case because a camera unit was filming the whole process. While the apprehension was going on, a single police van identified as a white windowless Fiat Ducato was making trips to transport the 40+ people away. After around 30 minutes waiting aside the train, the group of four original respondents were loaded into this van, together with another fifteen people. Among them was the young boy and his father. It followed a torturous ride of approximately ten minutes. This was described by the respondents as the worst part of their experience. The driver sped and abruptly broke while driving the vehicle.
Over the course of the trip the driver sharply turned along the roads. The people in the back, sitting in complete darkness and not seat belted during the ride, fell over one another and hit the walls (without any protection).
“Like a balloon. We were flying through [the van]. Left, Right, Left, Right.”
When the transport finally came to an end, the van backed up until it stood still. When the backdoor was opened, the respondents saw a group of five further police officers standing in two lanes. Among them one “big, fat guy”. The nineteen people contained in the van were unloaded and had to walk through two rows of officers (aligned in a tunnel formation) directing the way towards Serbia. The big officer was in charge of kicking the passing-byers. Managing to land strong kicks to one of the respondent’s belly and thigh area, he shouted as he kicked:
“Don’t come back to Croatia, motherfucker”
The group were pushed back into Serbia at approximately 04:00. Being insulted and beaten, the group gathered at the other side of the border and started making their way back to the town of Sid. After a 2.5 hour walk, they eventually reached their destination at approximately 06:30, 21st November 2019.