“Don't speak, don't look at me”

  • Date and time: April 19, 2022 00:00
  • Location: In Croatia, near the A3 highway border crossing (Batrovci in Serbia, Bajakovo in Croatia)
  • Coordinates: 45.055281945969, 19.102076924573
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 15 person(s), age: Unknown , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, insulting, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: Croatian police officers in black uniforms with guns in holsters at their hips; no helmets or head coverings
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

A group of five young men currently residing in Sid, Serbia, collectively described a violent pushback at the hands of the Croatian police. One of them, a twenty-three-year-old Afghani man who spoke some English, translated the responses of the group.

As part of a group of fifteen men, they attempted to cross into Croatia either during the late evening of Tuesday, April 19, or the early morning of Wednesday, April 20. After crossing the border, they walked for an estimated ten minutes before encountering a group of approximately twenty-five police officers, whom the men believed to be Croatian. The law enforcement officials wore black uniforms without helmets or facial coverings and had guns holstered at their hips. In English, the police told the group of men, “Don’t speak, don’t look at me” and forced them to stand with their eyes fixed on the ground. The translator stated that many members of his group did not speak English and so could not understand what they were being asked to do. Another interviewee demonstrated how the police officers hit them with batons until they complied.

The men estimated that the police held them for thirty minutes before pushing them back to Serbia. During this time, the officers used their fists, elbows, knees, and feet to inflict damage on the men. The interviewees reported that one bald officer was particularly violent. Additionally, the police damaged the men’s phones. They snapped their SIM cards in half and broke the charging ports by putting stick-like instruments into them and applying significant force.

All fifteen men tried to ask for asylum. Their request was ignored by the police, who grabbed the men and physically put them into large black cars with Croatian license plates. The officers put two men into each vehicle; thus, there were at least seven cars present at the pushback site. Although all cars returned to Sid, each one arrived at a different location near the city. The translator said that the men were told, “Don’t come into Croatia. Go back to your country. Don’t come in cars.”

The group of interviewees all had bruises but were not comfortable having them photographed.