On the 29th February 2020 a group composed of six people tried to move across the Serbian/Croatian border. In the group there was a woman and five men, all aged between 27 and 45 years old. The transit group all came from Morocco. At around 08.00 the transit group left the city of Sid (SRB) in order to reach the border.
After five hours walking through fields, at around 13:00, the group were shouted at to stop immediately. The respondent said that the location was near Tovarnik, Croatia (around 7 km away from the town), and the landscape was described as a field without any fence, just a small channel of water that bordered it, like a canal.
The way the police discovered the group was not clear as the respondent had not see the approaching authorities, but the group was convinced that there could have been some cameras hidden in the location where they were detected. At that time a police car arrived, with two Croatian authorities inside wearing regular blue uniforms with the crest of Croatia. After five minutes, another police van came over with one policeman inside. This van was used to load the transit group inside.
“I was telling them this is my father, please let him go to Slovenia, he is sick, he has medical problems”
The respondent reiterated that he was speaking very gently and kindly. The police responded aggressively, one officer saying: “Shut up! Shut up!”. The respondent was ordered to be silent with the threat of violence and the officer punched him in the face four times.
The transit group was then put in the police van, and taken back directly to the border (ten minutes of very fast driving). The group were pushed across the border into Serbia. They shared that the location was near railway tracks, 5/6 km away from the family camp in Sid.
The respondent shared that the group had suffered several violent pushbacks from Croatia in the same area. The first time was on 13th January 2020, where the same group of people were caught near Slakovci (HR) during the night. The respondent shared how the fact that it was night really made the incident more shocking. “Shock” is the exact word that the respondent used to describe the pointing of firearms at the group. While they were walking in the middle of a field, at around midnight, two Croatian police officers were hidden – allegedly camouflaging themselves with the ground. The officers reportedly then approached the transit group with assault rifles and scared them by suddenly pointing torch lights and the guns towards their heads, surrounding the entire group.
“They jump out the ground and first said – Get down and put your hands behind your head – and after to lay down on our stomach on the ground.”