“They are giving torture to us. After [so] the guys not come back again.”

  • Date and time: August 6, 2019 21:00
  • Location: Staro Selo Topusko (CRO) / Poljana (BiH)
  • Coordinates: 45.212255913458996, 15.929094058681358
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 8 person(s), age: 16 - 23 , from: Pakistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, destruction of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 3 policemen wearing green army uniform and German flag on the shoulder/ Frontex , 5 policemen blue shirt and dark trouser, 1 policewoman
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring

Original Report

The group of eight Pakistani men began their journey from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having spent several days moving through Croatia towards Slovenia, the transit group made a break to eat in a forest, near to a river. The group had just begun to eat when suddenly three police officers came out from a car.

The respondents described how the officers wore green military t-shirts and trousers. On the sleeve was a German flag and a blue armband. According to the respondents, the transit group asked the officers where they came from, and the officers explicitly replied that they were from Germany.

The respondents described these three police officers as behaving nicely to them and, suggesting they felt respected by them. The transit group were held at the point of apprehension, staying approximately an hour waiting for another police team to come. While waiting, the officers from Germany asked them about several subjects. First they asked questions about their identity, but the officers did not write anything down.

“‘Where are you from, What’s your name, How old are you? They don’t write’[…]They asking about everything, about Islam, about which one country your are relative , what are you doing, where are you going, why you are going to this way, they are asking, discussing this topic.”[..]” they are asking. ‘You are Muslim, Sunni, Shia?’ ‘you believe Allah, God?’”

The three officers took all the belongings of the group and put the collected items in a bag. The group was frisked and the officers took their chargers, phones, power banks, torches, sleeping bags and their bags. After taking all belongings, one of the officers took a picture of the face of all of them, asking them to smile.

Two vehicles arrived presently, carrying four to five policemen as well as one policewoman. The respondents suggested that these officers were called by the first team (the three German officers). The five new officers arrived in a van and a car and were wearing regular uniform, blue t-shirt and dark blue trousers (closer to a shade of black).

The transit group were put into the windowless police van, inside which was no light and because of the weather condition, also extremely hot.

The transit group were brought to a police station, most likely to have been located in the city of Karlovac (Croatia). The van was parked on the public road outside the station. The building was described by the respondents as forming a “U” shape, on the left was a big building, however the transit group were taken to the right. They were detained for three hours and a half in a big room with four windows, but they were high and meaning the group were unable to see anything out of them. The respondents described the place they stayed as :

“One big room, too much people [were] present here. We are coming, I think 20 people is also present here in this room. Big room. Same like this one. Inside, in the police station. Look like closed. Big one gate. Closed. Air is coming, too much hot. Air is not coming fresh. Window are closed. High. Above the gate, four window, but we cannot see. Big door. [like a] Garage. One gate police station, big gate black, and second one, room gate is blue, light blue.”

While the transit group were waiting, a family from Iraq came and were placed in the room. But the family were then removed an hour later. According to the respondents, they did not received water in the room, moreover, some people asked to go to the toilet, but the access of this was also refused.

The transit group were then transported to the border without any interview or questioning from the officers at the police station. They were pushed into a police van. Approximately 24 people were in the van. There was not enough place for everyone, so the police officers shoved the remaining people from the rear doors to cram all the transit group in. In these conditions, the detained passengers were forced to arrange themselves, some people sitting on the floor while others sitting on them. The back door of the van was composed of two Plexiglas panels on both sides, with a smaller door in between composed of one Plexiglas panel, with integrated metal mesh.

The condition in the van was not bearable, so the transit group had to knock at the walls to stop the van. However the respondents declared that the van was equipped with a camera and a microphone above the door, as well as a light which was off.

After an hour of driving, the van finally stop, an officer came and opened the door of the van. The transit group could see they were out of town, nearby a forest on a big road. The officer looked at the people inside the van and asked “why do you knock?”. The group asked in vain for him to switch on the air conditioning because the temperature inside the van was very hot and the air was not ventilated in any way. But the officer closed the door and kept driving the group in exactly the same conditions. Three people including one of the respondents threw up in the van. The van, had two ventilator grids on the ceiling and one under a bench. But none of these were turned on.

The respondents thought that the way was longer than it was supposed to be, and made intentionally so by the officers because they could feel the van turning around, especially just after getting in it, in town. Then they felt the van going up and down hill. One of the respondents spoke about “torture” when he explained the situation in the van. It was his view that the officer behaved this way to make people in transit give up their intentions to reach Western/Northern Europe.

“They are giving torture to us. After [so] the guys not come back again.” 

When they arrived at the border, they were surrounded by a forest. it was approximately 21:00. A fire had already been lit on the ground. The group got out one by one and had to stay in line by order of the officers. One officer officer proceeded to throw the belongings of each person into the fire, which was lit very close to where they had parked the van. Then the officers took the group, and walked them in a line to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, located a few meters away. At the border two officers beat the people one-by-one with sticks, and kicked them and pushed them towards the Bosnian side. Nearby was a concrete block (signifying the national boundary) and the transit group had to pass this in order to reach BiH. According to the respondents testimony, this border marker is likely to have been located in Poljana.

“[the officers] beat 2/2 sticks, you know big [baton] one, black. And who look it [at the police officers], they say, “why you [are] looking me?” They beat. We are afraid, they break heads, legs, hands. We are afraid of them. We are not looking to them.”

The officers who arrested them at the site of apprehension had told the group that they would make sure that the next officers would give all their belongings back, they did not get anything (having witnessed much of it being burnt at the border). Some of the people in the group were not even returned their shoes. The two respondents had a total of 380 euros stolen and for the entire group a total of 4 phones, 4 power banks, and 4 charging cables stolen.