“We had to get on our knees, because if we do not get on our knees they beat us”

  • Date and time: February 13, 2022 03:00
  • Location: one hour van drive from Staro Selo, near M201
  • Coordinates: 44.971618949276, 15.766259634161
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 3 person(s), age: 29, 22, 23 years old , from: Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 5 officers with blue uniforms with the word "policija" written on the back, 7 officers with black ski masks, dogs (unknown number), 1 van
  • 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

The respondent and two of his friends (all from Algeria) left Velika Kladuša, BiH on the 12th of February 2022 at around 6 pm.  They walked in the forest crossing a waist-deep river and the Croatian border at 10 pm. After entering the country they proceeded in Mala Kapela forest walking in the direction west. Around 1 pm they encountered a street with a few houses on it. The respondent reports having heard dogs barking in front of one of the houses and shortly after saw a man leaving the house with a flashlight. The respondent thinks that the local resident was the one calling the police on him and his friends. Scared about the police the group then decided to hide in the nearby forest.

Shortly after a group of five officers arrived at the site where they were hiding in, looking for the respondent and his friends with flashlights and dogs. The respondent identified them as Croatian police officers because of the uniforms they were wearing: blue uniforms with the word “policija” written on the back. Because the group split up and hid underneath leaves and branches the officers were unable to discover them in the first place. The police left and the group stayed in their hiding places. 20 minutes later the respondent first heard and then saw a drone flying between the trees. Reportedly, the drone stopped right above him, revealing his exact location to the police.

After dragging the group out of their hideaway the police escorted them back to the nearby road and forced them to partially take their clothes off and kneel down. The respondent and his friend related that they repeatedly asked for asylum, but the police did not react to their claims. Instead, the policemen started questioning the group that at that point was still on their knees asking them where exactly they were going and whether they were waiting for someone to transport them.

They did not believe the respondent and his friends when they explained they were going to Zagreb to ask for asylum and they were not going with the help of anyone but by walking. The policemen then proceeded to take the group´s personal belongings such as clothes, backpacks, power banks, phones, and chargers from them. They meticulously searched the backpacks and then brought the electrical devices and chargers to a van that was parked on the street. Some of the phones and power banks were taken and not given back, and others were destroyed to the point where the respondent later was unable to turn his phone on.

The respondent and his friends were then put into the van that drove for an hour to a border crossing of the Bosnian / Croatian border in the middle of a forest. In the forest there was what the respondent describes as a group of seven Croatian Intervention police officers waiting, wearing black ski masks to cover their faces. Croatian Intervention police are regularly described as wearing black balaclavas and dark uniforms. The respondent and his friends were handed back some of their belongings at this point broken belongings and afterward, the officers told them to walk further in the direction of the forest.

The group walked until they found a little road with an abandoned house on it, where they spent the rest of the night protecting themselves from the cold. The next morning the respondent stopped a car and asked the driver to point out the direction of Velika Kladuša to him because he was unable to find the way back seeing the fact that he had been left in an unknown place far away from a village or official border crossing without a working phone or any information about his exact location. The respondent and his friends had to walk an estimated 30 km to get back to Velika Kladuša.