The primary respondent in this case, a 28-year-old man from Morocco traveling in a group with four other Moroccan men between the ages of 22-24, was pushed back from Karlovac, Croatia in the morning of August 20, 2020. Prior to this, he had made three unsuccessful attempts to cross through Croatia over the course of the past year and was pushed back every single time.
The group began their journey from the Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa and spent several days moving through Croatia, before reaching the town of Karlovac. At 8:00 am on August 20, 2020, the group began to cross a bridge over an unspecified river when they noticed 6 Croatian police officers waiting for them at the other side. The respondent described the officers as “regular” officers wearing blue uniforms. Instead of attempting to flee or otherwise resist detention, they finished crossing the bridge and met the officers on the other side. Upon arrival, the officers inquired as to where the group-members were from. The respondent reported their nationality and the police officers said “Ok, no problem” and instructed the group to sit down with their hands up and their heads down. At this point, the police did not further physically threaten the group but did not provide any further information about what was to come next.
The group was then transported to the central Karlovac police station, about a 5 minute drive away. They did not express intention to claim asylum and were detained at the police station where they were not given access to a toilet or food or water. After what the respondent said felt like 35-45 minutes, they were taken into a van driven by two Croatian officers. The drive to the Bosnian border lasted for what the respondent reported as 40 minutes, with the driving of the Croatian police officers described as being uncomfortably fast through bumpy roads.
When they reached the Bosnian border, the Croatian officers took the group outside the van. The respondent described this set of Croatian officers as wearing an all black uniform with the Croatian flag emblazoned on the arm, with black ski masks that covered the entirety of their faces. As the respondent was the only member of the group who spoke sufficient English, he acted as a translator for the remainder of the group. The officers told him “If you have money, you go back to Bosnia in peace, we do not touch you, but if not, there will be problems”. The respondent informed the officer that he personally did not have money, but that he would ask the rest of his group, however the rest also did not have any money.
After he reported this, the Croatian officer announced that each of them would be searched one by one. The officer said “You first, I will search for the marks. Give me your pants, shoes, shirt, all”. He was then stripped of shirt, pants, shoes, after which he was beaten by the officers on the arms and torso with both hands and a baton. The officers then proceeded to beat the rest of the group one by one after removal of their clothes.
Their clothes were not returned after the search and subsequent beating. The respondent and the rest of the group also had their phones, the rest of their clothes and belongings, and their power banks forcibly removed, leaving them in their underclothes at the Bosnian-Croatian border. The respondent reported that the area they were left in was one that he had been dropped off at before in previous pushbacks, about a five hour walk from Velika Kladusa proper in a village with a mosque and a river. He was not able to provide more precise information than this.
After they crossed into the Bosnian border, the group walked the 5 hours back into Velika Kladusa.