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We were scared. We felt like criminals

Date & Time 2021-09-29
Location Near Dobro Selo, BiH
Reported by No Name Kitchen
Coordinates 45.0712143, 16.1556451
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 1 - 40
Group size 12
Countries of origin Balochistan, Gambia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 6
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, electric shock, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, absence of oxygen during car ride
Police involved six Croatian officers (3 groups), blue police jeep, white police van with "policija" on the side, unmarked white van

On the 29th of September, a transit group of 12 people was walking in the forest in Croatia. The group was composed of two families and three single men. One family included three minors of 17, 16, and 11 years old. The other had a baby who was only 18 months old. Everyone came from Balochistan except for one single man who was from The Gambia. Two members of the group members, a woman, 40 years old, and a younger woman, 20 years old, had physical problems; the older woman had kidney pain and the twenty-year-old had an ankle sprain since she had fallen down in the forest.

The transit group was walking in the forest in Croatia and, at around 1:30 pm, they crossed a road. While they were crossing the street, a van with a policeman inside stopped. The respondent believes that the officer belonged to the Croatian police since he was wearing a dark blue jacket with an inscription on the back that said “Policija”. The van was white and had no writing on the side, like a normal private van. Once they saw the officers, the group split up and everyone tried to run away or hide in the forest at the side of the road.

The policeman started to shout: “Everyone out!” and the group members eventually got out of the bushes. The policeman ordered the group members to sit down in line by the side of the road. Everyone had to place their backpacks in front of them. Then, he called additional officers with the police radio.

While they were waiting for the other officers, a girl gave her phone to the policeman: “We know that if we don’t give our phones the police hit the men, so this girl gave her phone immediately”. The policeman took the phone, he threw it on the ground and then he started to kick the phone like a ball.

After some time, a white police car and a blue police jeep arrived. The two drivers of the two vehicles also appeared to be members of the Croatian police. The three policemen started asking the members of the group about their nationality and age and then asked them to open their backpacks and take out what was inside. The three policemen stood in three different positions in front of the row of group members: one at the beginning of the row, one in the middle, and one at the end.

The Gambian man from the transit group started to quietly take his belongings out of his backpack when a police officer started to hit him several times in the face. At the same time, a 16-year-old boy was taking out his phone when another officer took it and hit the boy five times on the head with the phone. The respondent remembers that an officer also kicked an elven-year-old when he did not immediately follow their order: As the officers were speaking Croatian, the boy did not understand the officers’ request to take off his shoes. For this reason, a police officer started kicking the boy’s leg to urge him to take off his shoes.

The group members pulled out everything: phones, power banks, food, clothes, medicines, and money. One policeman took a plastic bag and put all the phones, the power banks, and the money inside, while another officer kicked the food away. While everybody was pulling things from their backpacks, another van with a policeman and a policewoman came. The respondent described the van as white, without windows on the back and with the word police written on the side. The respondent believes these officers belonged to the border police.

Once there, these two officers began to search everyone. The policewoman began by searching the 18-month-old child. Then she went to the 40-year-old woman, the respondent’s mother, who was lying on the floor because of her kidney pain. The policewoman initially tried to get the woman up, but she was crying in pain and could not move. So the officer left her on the floor and began to search the woman’s body in a way that the respondent describes as quick and rude. The policewoman found a hidden phone on the body of the respondent’s mother and therefore started to pull the woman’s hair and hit her twice on the neck.

After searching everyone’s bodies, the officers ordered the group members to put everything else back in their backpacks, store them and get into the back of the white police van. The interviewee states that the van had neither windows nor lights. The van had two benches on the sides and chains on the floor.

The policeman and the policewoman started to drive the van with the police jeep ahead and the other police van behind. “We were scared. We felt like criminals”.

They drove for what the respondent felt like 20 minutes with reckless driving which made the 18-month-old girl and  two other members of the group vomit. “We were falling one on the other. There were the smell of the vomit and we couldn’t breath well”. The respondents states also that the air vents were closed.

When the car then stopped somewhere in a forest, the policeman and the policewoman got out and asked the group members to hand over their backpacks. The officers locked the group members back into the car and after a few minutes opened the doors of the car to show the group members the ash heaps of their backpacks. “They burnt everything: medicines, food, clothes… they just gave to me the Koran that I had because I asked for it”.

After all the backpacks were burnt, the officers closed the van doors again and drove for another 40 minutes. Then they got out and ordered the group members to jump out of the van and run away over the border with Bosnia. The police officer had a taser and walked behind the transit group to throw the group members out of the van. As the respondent’s mother could not run away, the policeman hit her on the shoulder with his taser. The same policeman also used the taser on another single man. The group members crossed the border in the forest and then walked for about 40 km to reach Velika Kladusa.