On October 18th, the respondent, a 60-year-old man from Congo, was pushed back with a group of 22 people from the Croatian side of the border to the Bosnian side, in the surroundings of Glinica, Bosnian town near Velika Kladuša.
That same day around 6am, the respondent left Glinica with a group of 60 people from Congo, Burundi and Guinea Bissau. They were of very different ages and there were also families with children. They were heading towards the Croatian border. After 45 minutes walking, before getting to the border, they were apprehended by some people the respondent refers to as “police” and told to go back. Around 8am the transit group reached Glinica again. The respondent reports: “Vers 8 heures nous sommes rentrés, ils nous n’ont pas brutalisé, ce matin” (We came back around 8, they didn’t use violence on us that morning).
Afterwards, 16 people, including the respondent, decided to try to cross to the Croatian side again, taking another route. This second transit group consisted of 7 mothers with 6 kids, while the rest of them were men. The youngest baby was 7 months old and the oldest person in the group, namely the respondent, was 60 years old. As the interviewee declares, they left Glinica around 10.00 am and arrived at the border crossing point at 12.00 pm.
When the group was about to cross, they were spotted by Croatian authorities, and they were told they couldn’t get into their country. Reportedly, the group refused to go back and tried to move towards the Croatian side of the border. The respondent describes that they asked for help, they raised their hands in the air, and they even walked on their knees, but the police would refuse to help or let them in.
As it has been described by the respondent, there were 6 officers, all of them were male, and they were wearing dark blue uniforms. The respondent further recalls that one of them, though, had a different shirt on, a light blue shirt. Both uniforms could match the Croatian Border Police uniforms. There were 2 police vehicles as well, both described as white with a blue stripe on the side: one was a small car and the other a bigger van.
“Il y avait un habillé avec une chemise un peu plus claire, et ce lui là etait plus compassioné. Il voyait qu’on suffrait. Lui il est partie, et ils ont appelé le chef.” (There was one of them dressed in a lighter blue shirt, he was the most compassionate. He saw we were suffering. Then he left and that’s when the boss was called)
Meanwhile, as declared, the transit-group members called who they refer to as “the Croatian IOM” to ask for help and transport. Reportedly, the help was denied under the reason of not being in Croatian territory. The Croatian officers would shout “go back!” at them, and at some point, they drew a line on the ground and told them not to cross it.
After one hour stuck at the border with the people referred to as police officers, the group members saw that they were calling someone. Then, a new group of people, likely being officers too, arrived, reportedly led by a chief police officer, with 4 vehicles (1 car and 3 vans).
The respondent reports that this new group consisted of 4 officers dressed in dark blue uniforms and a 5th police officer, described as a big man, dressed in the same uniform but with a different kind of sewing. The respondent’s hypothesis is that he was the chief of the group. He was also carrying 2 guns, in both sides of his belt, and a radio or walkie talkie. These officers had a dog with them. Moreover, the respondent reports to have seen this man during other pushbacks he has been through, and he declares that this officer is always the most violent: “Ce monsieur là je le connais, on l’a déjà rencontré plusieurs fois, il est trop mechant (…). Toute le monde ici le connait, nous avons tous peur de lui” (I already knew this man, we have already seen him several times, he is really wicked (…). Everybody here knows him, we are really scared of him). He further declares:
“Alors ils ont appellé je ne sais pas si c’est leur chef, c’est un homme de grande taille avec une voix un peut grave, quand il parle c’est comme une bombe atomique, il est venu avec un chien policier et tout une troupe de policiers” (That’s when they called him, I don’t know if he is the chief, he is a big sized man, with a deep voice, when he speaks it feels like a bomb. He came with a police dog and a whole troupe of police officers)
As reported, the physical violence only started when this new group of officers arrived. They came out of the cars, took the dog, and started moving towards the transit group with the dog ahead, barking. They all had their batons in their hands and when they reached the people they started beating and kicking them, reportedly even women and children were brutalized.
The respondent declares that one of the group members, a woman with a baby in her arms, was seriously beaten. She was trying to cover and save the baby when she fell down; even then, the officer would reportedly kick. According to the respondent, in that moment, he approached the woman to take the baby and cover him/her, but he was then strongly beaten on his ribs with a baton. He declares he did not recover until two days later. Likewise, the mentioned woman had to stay at the hospital for two days after the incident.
“Ce qu’on à connu ce jour là était térrifique. Il y avait une maman qui avait un bébé de 8 mois, vous vous imaginez… et la maman elle pleurait. Lui il a sérieusement flagellé cette maman, il à pris même des batons, et ils nous à tapé fort” (What we experienced that day was horrific. There was a mother with a 8 month old baby, you can imagine… and the mother was crying. He seriously whipped this mom, he even used the baton, and he beat us violently.)
The respondent states that, after the beating, the alleged head of the police group took a pepper spray bottle out and used onto all of the members of the transit group, including women and children. That’s when the group members started to run towards the Bosnian side of the border, it was around 2 pm. They walked to Glinica and got there around 5 pm.