“We were lucky, this time they didn't take our jackets”

  • Date and time: December 13, 2020 04:00
  • Location: Near Drenovac Osredački, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 44.235462, 16.214913
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 10 person(s), age: 8 adults aged 20-30 years old, 2 children aged 8 and 12 , from: Iran, Iraq
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 4 officers at point of apprehension, 5 at first station, 1 at second station, 4 additional officers at point of push-back. All officers mentioned were wearing black uniforms with badges on their chest and symbols on their shoulders. Men: aged late 30s, early 40s. Female officers aged 35 and 40. Officers in the van carried batons, officers in the stations and in the smaller cars carried pistols
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, papers signed, no translator present
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Collective Aid

Original Report

The respondent, a 33-year-old male from Iran, made his border crossing attempt from Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina, on December 9, 2020 according to the respondent’s testimony. He got in a boat with 9 people from Iraq – 7 adults and 2 children (one 8-year-old and one 12-year-old) and crossed into Croatia near Davor, coordinates 45.108266, 17.514565. From there, they walked for approximately 90 minutes until they reached an empty hunting cabin, where they spent 3 days. At this point in their journey the group was running low on food and water, and decided to make themselves known to Croatian authorities. At approximately 22:00 on December 12th they had walked into a small village, where they were seen by 3 Croatian citizens and reported to the police. One male police officer in his late 30s arrived shxortly after, driving a small white car with “policija” written on it. He had a pistol and was wearing a black uniform with symbols on his shoulders and a badge on his chest. Shortly after, a white police van with metal caging around the windows arrived, with two officers inside. A third police vehicle, a smaller white car with one officer, arrived as well. All officers wore the same black uniform, though the van drivers carried batons, and all vehicles had “policija” written on them. 

The entire transit group was searched, and the respondent reported that his backpack and phone was put into a separate, small compartment in the van. Then the group was put in the back of the van, where they were driven to a nearby police station. At the station, there were 2 female officers (aged approximately 35 and 40) and 3 men (aged late 30s, early 40s) wearing the same uniform as the previous officers. At the police station, the respondent was searched again but reported that nothing else was taken at this time. During this process the officers broke the groups’ phones in front of them, laughing and smiling while they did so. 

All individuals in the transit group then provided their personal information to the officers. While the respondent was speaking to the older female police officer, he asked to begin the asylum process but this request was denied. He showed the policewoman his cross necklace and explained that he is Christian. The officer told the respondent that the government was the problem and was preventing anyone from claiming asylum. The group was given food and were in this police station for approximately 3 hours in total. 

Afterwards, the group of 10 was put in the same van and were driven to a police station approximately 90 minutes away. The driver was very aggressive and swerved a lot during the drive. When they arrived at the second police station, they were called in to the station one at a time and were told to sign documents written in English, Farsi, and Croatian. The documents stated that they agreed to leave the country and could not reside in Croatia. The respondent told the female officer supervising this process that he would not sign them, but the officer told him he would have “problems with the commandos” if he refused to sign them. He signed the documents, and the officers kept the papers of everyone in the transit group. 

This process took approximately 20 minutes, and afterwards the group got back in the van and was driven for 4-5 hours to a forested area (coordinates unknown). They were let out of the van and were told “welcome to Bosnia”. The respondent believes this occurred at approximately 04:00 on December 13th. At this forested area, there were 4 police officers (in the same uniforms as previous officers they interacted with) waiting when they arrived. They were told that the borders of Croatia and Slovenia were closed and to go back to Bosnia. The group walked for what the respondent estimates was 18 hours before reaching Bihać.