On the 16th November 2019, the respondent and a group of three others left Bihac (BiH) and walked through the woodland of the Croatian interior for eleven days. Twenty kilometers before the Slovenian border, the group had run out of food and supplies, so they decided to walk into a town – Delnice, Croatia. Describing the moment, the respondent shared:
“We gave up, we had no food and we had no map, so we gave up”.
At 09:00 on the 28th November 2019, one white Croatian police van with two male Croatian police officers in navy blue uniforms apprehended the group in transit. The officers asked if the group in transit had phones or weapons – the group said no and they were put inside the police van. It is suggested from the respondents indications that the group was apprehended at this location – 45.402834, 14.805374. They drove for up to ten minutes to the local police station – 9QXX+6W Delnice, Chorwacja.
At the police station there were eight male Croatian police officers – four standing outside and four inside. The respondent shared how he thought two officers outside were kind, but the other two were mean. He stated:
“they were not nice, they said hurry up, hurry up…they pushed us and put us in jail”.
The officers outside did thorough body searches on all groups, and confiscated one power-bank. The transit group were put inside a room which resembled a shipping container, with one small square window on the ceiling; inside there were already seven male Palestinians and one man from Syria. The group waited for two and a half hours in this room.
Around 12:00, the officers attempted to transfer the group in transit into a van, but while attempting to climb into the van, a Palestinian man had a seizure, fell to the ground and hit his head. The group in transit begged the officers to help them as the man was not moving, but the officers just stood back and watched for five minutes:
“they just stood and watched like nothing happened. I was shocked, I didn’t know the man but I was shocked. He is a human-being and he fell on his head and he shocked me…but the police thought he was acting…how can you act falling on your head? I was shocked.”
After 10 -15 minutes an ambulance came for the injured man, and the rest of the group was taken back into the police station to wait for him to get back from the hospital. While waiting, another two groups were brought into the station and put in the same room as everyone else – one group with 6 Algerians and the other with eleven Afghanis. The Algerian group told the respondent that one of their friends had had a seizure in the forest, so they ran into town (Delnice) and found the police to help their friend. There, the group was apprehended and their friend was taken to the same hospital as the man from Palestine.
Around 17:30, the men returned from the hospital and the officers asked the group to nominate an english translator (a person in transit to translate for the group). The respondent went with the officers and the two men who had returned from the hospital, and was forced to translate questions from the officers. The officers recorded the personal details of the men who had been to the hospital, made them sign a document (translated by the respondent) and took their picture. They also asked a range of questions regarding the route which the men had taken from their home countries, and their travel history since leaving. The document signed verified that the personal details of the two persons in question were correct. The officer began to lie:
“We will bring you to the camp…but they were lying…there is no way into camp in Croatia”.
After this self translated interview (roughly 30 minutes) all people in the police station were transferred into one white Croatian police van. Before getting into the van, each person was searched extremely thoroughly by police:
“they confiscated everything…a Palestinian man was pleading ‘Gaza no money, please my friend, Gaza no money, please my friend’, but the officer told him shut up, shut up”.
In total the officers took around €1,300, and all remaining telephones and power-banks. It was extremely cramped in the van, with roughly 30 people in the back, some standing and some sitting. Three male Croatian officers in black uniform and ski masks drove the group for 45 minutes to a border town near Sturlic (BiH), arriving around 19:00. One-by-one, each person inside the van was taken outside, beaten by the three officers in black with batons, their fists, and kicking, and then told to:
“GO, GO, GO BOSNIA”
Each individual spent a different amount of time being beaten. The respondent was only hit three times, however some people were hit 10-20-30 times. Describing the incident, the respondent shared:
“I can’t understand how they chose this…I received three hits, but some guys received ten hits, twenty hits and more”.
After crossing the border into BiH, the respondent and his group made a fire and spent the night in the forest because they did not know where they were. At around 08:00 the next morning (29th November 2019), they walked roughly nine hours (25km) back to Velika Kladusa (BiH), arriving at 16:00. The respondent said they took so long to get back to the town because they were lost in the forest and then were so tired from being on foot for +15 days.