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Pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia for the sixth time

Date & Time 2020-11-21
Location Katinovac, Croatia
Reported by Collective Aid
Coordinates 45.22851, 15.917158
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 20 - 30
Group size 12
Countries of origin Pakistan, Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, photos taken, personal information taken, papers signed, no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 12-17
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved 5 Croatian officers in blue uniforms with Croatian police patches, 7 male officers in all black attire with ski masks covering everything except their eyes, a further 5 dressed the same. At least one white van labelled with "policija", one white car labelled with "policija"

On November 16th, 4 Moroccan men (aged 25, 25, 21, 29 years old) left Šturlić, BiH and made their way towards Croatia, sleeping in the forest approximately 100m from the border. At 04:00 on the 17th, they crossed the border and began walking through the forest and mountains, and after 2 days they reached a large river. Here they found an old boat that had a hole in it. They attempted to use it to cross the river, but it was raining and the boat filled with water and capsized, so they returned to the riverbank and spent the night there outside. This location was near the Croatian village of Skukani. On the morning of the 20th, they crossed a bridge located on the other side of the village and continued walking through the forests. At 07:00 and 12:00, they saw a hunter and a woodsman respectively, with the respondent believing that both of these individuals alerted the police to their presence in the area. 

At 17:00 the transit group stopped to rest in the forest as the sun had gone down. Two hours later, 7 male police officers wearing all black clothing and black ski masks which only exposed their eyes arrived at the scene, carrying batons. The respondent reported that this location was in a forest near Donje Gnojnice. The officers patted down the group members and took phones and power banks from everyone, and placed these items in a bag.

The officers in black made the transit group enter a white, marked police van, the driver of which was wearing a blue police uniform (jacket and trousers) and did not have his face covered. The respondent reported that this officer had a Croatian police insignia on his uniform. The group was driven for approximately 45 minutes to a police station, where they were again patted down and placed in a large, warehouse type room. At the police station, 5 officers were observed: 3 female officers in their mid twenties, and two male officers in their thirties.

The group members were called up one by one and had to sign a document in English as well as write on a separate piece of paper their age, name, parents’ names, and country of origin. The respondent reported that there was no translator present during this process. Once they had written down their personal details, the respondent reported that each member of the group had to stand against a wall holding the paper displaying these details, and their pictures were taken on the personal phone of one of the police officers. 

After this process, the group were taken to a cell and locked inside. The respondent reported that there was a water point available in the cell, however during the group’s detention they were not provided with any food, despite asking for it. The group members were allowed to go to the toilet if requested. While at the police station, none of the group members made an asylum request, which the respondent emphasized was due to previous instances of violence from Croatian officers in previous crossings into Croatian territory. The respondent specifically mentioned a violent encounter in Zagreb during his third border crossing endeavour into Croatia from Bosnia when he had attempted to register an asylum claim with the Croatian authorities. This report discusses his sixth and most recent journey.

The group slept in the cell, and in the morning 8 Pakistani men aged 20-30 years old were locked into the cell with them. The 12 men spent the day locked in the cell, and at approximately 21:00 were put into a white van similar to or the same as the previous van and were driven for approximately 1-1.5 hours. The group members were tightly packed into the back, and the driver reportedly drove recklessly, swerving and driving at high speeds so the group was bumped around often.  

They arrived to a forested area near Katinovac [45.22851, 15.917158] at approximately 22:30, where a regular police car (white, with “policija” written on it) was waiting along with 5 officers wearing all black clothing and black ski masks. The driver of the van handed over the bag with the group members’ phones and power banks to these officers and left the area. 

The group members were told to place their belongings in a pit in the ground, and once each member had done so, the officers lit these items on fire. At this time, the respondent also witnessed the officers smash the group members’ phones. The group was then ordered to stand in a line with one officer overseeing them, and one by one each member was called forward and made to stand between the other four officers, with two officers on either side of the individual. Each individual was beaten with metal batons on the backs of their thighs, and the respondent estimates this one-by-one process lasted for approximately one hour in total. The officers then yelled at the group to go, and the members crossed the border back into Bosnia at approximately 23:30 and made their way to Velika Kladuša.