A caravan of 43 people on the move, including individuals from Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan were walking through Croatia on 9th October 2019. One of the groups consisted of six men from Iraq and Egypt, and included one 17 year old minor. Two families with a total of six small children were also present.
At 06.00 when most of the group was sleeping in a wooded area before the SLO/HR border in Johi (HR), nine Croatian police in black uniforms and ski masks arrived to their sleeping spot and fired several gunshots. They had one police dog which the respondent described as looking like a German shepherd.
The men in the group were ordered to sit on the ground with their hands behind their heads. The police dog which had no muzzle was then released from its chain and the dog bit one of the men on his cheek. The two families were removed from the area by two Croatian police vans. Unaccompanied children were separated and made to sit and watch as the officers used batons to beat the group in transit. The minors who were in their early teens, and generally unnacompanied, were also beaten. Some of the men resisted as the officers hit them. The respondent reported that he believes the men from Pakistan were beaten more than the others.
“For me it’s normal. I saw my son, my brother take fire (gunshots) to their heads.”
The respondent shared that he had attempted to cross the border seven times since fleeing the destruction of his home in Mosul, Iraq, and the death of most of his family. He shared that he continuously experiences violence at the Croatian borders and notes the similarities between Iraq and Croatia.
While the group in transit was beaten, three Croatian Intervention police in navy blue uniforms arrived in two more police vans. The respondent remembers at least one of them having “GENERAL” written on the back of his jacket. The nine officers in black uniforms saluted the three officers when they approached the group. One of the commanding officers told the nine officers in black, “Congratulations,” and “very nice job.” The respondent assumes this praise was in response to catching the large group in transit.
Officers then searched everyone’s pockets, suggested to be looking for money and mobile phones. Approximately 400 euros was taken from the group of six in transit with whom the respondent was travelling, and put into the officers’ pockets. If a person had a nicer phone, the officer also took it and put it in their pocket. Bags, jackets, and shoes were forcibly removed from the group in transit.
The groups were then divided and transported by seven Croatian police vans. The respondent was in contact with one of the families traveling in the caravan and he reported that the two families with young children were taken to a camp in Croatia. None of the others from the caravan were brought to a police station. The group of six in transit was transported to the border near Šturlić (BiH).
In the police van the respondent vomited because of the officer’s reckless driving. The vehicle made wide turns, sudden stops, and had no air circulation. The respondent noted that it “felt like I was sitting on top of the engine,” because of the extreme heat in the van. At Sturlic they were unloaded and pushed back in BiH.