The respondents, seven men aged 24-33 from Morocco and Algeria, were walking in the woods just a few kilometers into the Croatian interior from the border with BiH (approximate coordinates 45.220103, 15.937941) when caught by Croatian authorities patrolling the area. This occured at approximately 21:00 on 8th December 2019. The respondent identified the authorities as four male Croatian police officers wearing black uniforms with the Croatian emblem.
The respondent claims that the police shot with a gun twice in the air to stop them. Two of the respondents stopped and five of them escaped. Two of the police officers ran after them but did not catch them. The two respondents were forced to lay prone on the ground for a period of time perceived as ten minutes. Police took the phone and the powerbank of one of the respondents and crushed them with a baton. When the other two police officers came back, the two respondents were made kneel on the floor with their hands up behind the head. Police then frisked the respondents.
The police called another two male police officers who arrived with a police van and loaded the two respondents (bringing the total of officers present to six). These police officers were wearing black uniforms with the Croatian emblem. Another four Pakistani people (from another transit group) were already in the van. The respondent was driven in the van for a period of time he perceived as four hours long. The respondent did not know where he was going, nor could he see out of the window.
The respondent was brought to a building which he describes as “blue”. He did not observe any official “police station” sign. However, the interior part of the building looked like a police station. The respondent refers to the police station as the “jungle station”, saying that it was in a rural area and not in a city. Six police officers were in the police station, one female wearing blue uniform and five male wearing black uniform. In the police station, the respondents (now a group of 6) were forced to take their shoes off. They were told that they could have the shoes back later. The respondents never got their shoes back.
Inside the police station, the two respondents and the four Pakistani people were put in a cell. The respondent describes the cell as “stinky”. The respondents had their fingerprints taken from one finger only, and were forced to quickly sign a document. The document was both written in Arabic and English but the respondents had no time to read it properly. No one of the group asked for asylum. The respondent explains that he did not ask for asylum because [he believes that]:
“Croatian police do not grant asylum to anyone”
The respondents referred to a previous occasion in which Croatian police in Zagreb denied him the right to ask for asylum.
No official translator was provided to the respondents. The respondent refers being in the cell for a period perceived as six hours long. At approximately 23:00, the two respondents and the four Pakistani people were loaded in a police van. The police officers intimidated them with batons to forced them into the van. The respondents left the police station without shoes nor backpacks. Two male police officers wearing black uniform drove the van to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The respondent perceived the travel as 40 minutes/one hour long. The respondent claims that at the border they waited in the van for approximately twenty minutes.
Approximately 24:00 the respondents could leave the van one by one. The two police officers who drove the van remained sitting in the van. “They don’t look”, says the respondent. Outside of the van, six male Croatian authorities wearing black uniform were waiting in a line. The respondent affirms that the policemen were not wearing ski masks.
Nonetheless, the respondent could not see the police in the face because police were pointing flashlights in the face of the respondents. For the same reason, the respondent affirms that he was unable to see if there was any official emblem on the black uniforms of the policemen. The respondents were forced to run through the line and police beat them with the batons. The police shouted to the respondents “go, go” while beating. The last policeman in the line hit the respondent on the shoulder and on the leg with the baton.
“They beat me here and here”, says the respondent showing where he was hit. The respondent refers to still have pain in his shoulder. At the end of the line there was a small river with water reaching the respondents’ knees. The respondents were forced by police to cross the river.
From the point of the pushback (approximate coordinates 45.061321, 15.74019), the respondents walked for approximately 40 minutes to reach a secondary road leading to the city of Sturlic (BiH). None of the respondents but one Pakistani man knew the area where they were pushed back. “I know the street”, the respondent reports the Pakistani man saying. The respondent affirms that he did not hear any sound that could be related to the presence of a city or town in the surrounding area. In all, the respondents supposedly walked for 4 hours to return to the city of Velika Kladusa (BiH). The respondent affirms that the transit group reached Velika Kladusa approximately 5:00 on 9th December 2019. Recalling the moment, the respondent stated:
“On the way back to Velika Kladusa I wanted to kill myself, I hated the way back. I hate myself here with the Croatian police continuously deporting back”
Talking about how he felt emotionally, the respondent ended by saying:
“The [Croatian] police cold me”