In the late evening of September 7th, 2020, a group of thirteen people (including one woman with her husband) from Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria left Bosnia to transit through Croatia. The primary respondent was a twenty-eight year old man from Tunisia, who said that he had been pushed back once before from Croatia and that the last time, the police were “good” to him.
Upon crossing into Croatia, the group continued walking through a forested area along the river. One respondent believed that they were in the border area of Maljevac at the time they were apprehended by the police. When they crossed the river – unspecified if this was through walking across a bridge or wading – they noticed two civil police officers waiting for them on the other side, as well as six more police officers ten or twenty meters further beyond the two initially apprehending them. They were then transported to a nearby police station.
When they arrived at the police station around midnight, they were fingerprinted and photographed, as well as made to sign documents without a translation or a translator provided. An officer also searched his phone; they opened the Maps.me application, and asked the respondent to show the intended route that he was attempting to take through Croatia.
The entire group was then placed in a cramped room for the night and through part of the following day. There was little lighting in the room, and the toilet was in the same room as the people. The group was held until 4:00 pm the next day without food, and could only drink water from the sink in the room, next to the toilet. At 4:00 pm, they were loaded into a windowless van and driven to a stretch of the Bosnian-Croatian border close to the Bosnian village of Glinica.
Though the primary respondent believed that they had been detained in a police station close to Majlevac (right on the Bosnian-Croatian border), the journey to the drop-off point took what the respondent said felt like five or six hours. This is because for the majority of the ride, the driver drove in circles, at some point circles small enough and at such a high speed to give the passengers the feeling that the car was spinning. While driving in circles, the driver turned on the air-conditioning to a high degree, making it difficult for the group to breathe. Several people vomited, and the woman of the group fainted.
When they finally arrived at the border, an officer opened the door and shone a bright flashlight into the van. The primary respondent said that he could still make out the black mask and the black uniform of the “cargo officer”. The officers proceeded to take them out of the van one by one; meaning that those who waited heard the Croatian officers beating their friends outside, knowing that at some point “when they finish with my friend, they come for me”.
When it was the turn of the respondent, the Croatian officer said “Come here,” and took him outside the van, continuing to shine a bright flashlight in his face so that he could not see. The officer took his phone and five hundred euros given to him by a family member in France. He set his jacket, shoes and other clothes of his on fire. The respondent was then led down a small hill, where five more Croatian officers in the same black masks, black jackets, and black boots were waiting. When they arrived down the hill, this group of officers proceeded to beat him with batons. At some point when he attempted to look up at the faces of the officers, they proceeded to beat him even more aggressively. While they did not beat the Palestinian woman who came with her husband, they did take them both out of the van and brought them down the hill at the same time, forcing her to watch as they beat her husband. Several members of the group bore significant injuries, including facial injuries. After crossing the border into Bosnia, they spent the night in an abandoned house in Glinica.