“Sometimes they even order you to take off your underwear”

  • Date and time: January 29, 2020 00:00
  • Location: near to Hrvatska Kostajnica, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 45.2184109, 16.5111607
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 14 person(s), age: 32, 32, 34, 52 years old , from: Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 2 male Croatian police officers; 1 male and 1 female Croatian police officer, 1 official police van; unknown number of Croatian police officers in uniform at the police station; 6 male Croatian police officers in uniform, 2 official police vans
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, photos taken, personal information taken, papers signed, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

The group in transit (four Moroccan men aged 32, 32, 34 and 52) were stopped by police at Zagreb train station (HR) while resting on the 28th January 2020 at around 09:00 (approximate coordinates 45°48’15.5″N 15°58’51.2″E).

The transit group were put into two police wagons, and then attempted to flee.  “I said to my friend to jump”. Two were blocked by police while the two others managed to jump through the window and ran into the centre of Zagreb. Without a phone or any money, the two respondents decided to try and borrow a phone. 

The transit group was spotted and apprehended by two police officers in uniform in Zagreb (one male and one female) later that day. After being frisked, the respondents were put in an official police van and were taken to a police station in Zagreb (HR).

At roughly 18:00, the respondents arrived at the station and were put into a cell. Inside, there were already multiple people from Morocco, Algeria, Iran, and Afghanistan. All of the respondents’ personal belongings were left outside of the cell. Police asked to the group in transit to give them money, and then one by one called each group member out of the cell to answer questions.

“if you have it [money], you should give it to him”

The policeman asked to the respondents to write their personal information (full name, age, and nationality) on a blank piece of paper. Later, the respondents had to hold the paper in their hands while police took front and profile pictures of their faces. After the photos were taken, the group in transit requested asylum but were ignored by police officers. According to the respondents, the policemen ignored them throughout their entire stay at the station. The respondents had to sign a paper written in a foreign language that they did not understand. No official translator was present at the police station even though the transit group asked for one. “They pressured us to sign” affirms the respondent. Access to toilets, food, water, and the right to smoke was all denied at the police station.

At approximately 20:00, two official police vans arrived at the station, with three policemen inside each. In total there were now 14 people in the group in transit. The transit group was forced to split in two (seven per van) and were not allowed to retrieve their belongings from the station.

 “No one was able to get his stuff, police kept all at the police station”

The driving was erratic and reckless, with one van blasting air conditioning and the other blasting heating. During the journey, the van stopped multiple times.

“Everyone threw up. He [the policemen] was doing it on purpose. On the path, he would stop, restart, drive in reverse…during long time” 

At roughly 22:00, approximately two hours after leaving the police station, both vans stopped. They parked with their backs facing each other at the end of a path leading towards a forest. Two policemen opened the doors and shouted at the respondents to gather in one of the two vans. After approximately ten minutes, one policeman opened the van’s doors shouting “one by one !”. One by one, each transit group member exited the van and was beaten by the police. According to the respondents, there were two policemen hitting and frisking, while the others were “guarding the place”. 

“If you give money is it okay. If you don’t give money they hit you”

Outside, police asked the group in transit to sit on the ground while they forced them all to undress. They had to take off everything, including shoes, jacket, t-shirt, trousers…

sometimes they even ordered you to take off your underwear”

The police officers again asked the group in transit for money, again frisking them. The respondents allege that if you give the police your valuables, you will get off easier, but if they find something hidden on you, they will beat you harder. A few people from the group in transit were injured, one with a broken nose and another with a broken tooth…“The aim is to scare you”, says the respondent. 

“sometimes police search around with light because they are afraid someone is filming or taking photos of them because they are doing an aggression”

When the officers had finished searching and beating the group in transit, they again split them into two groups of seven and put them in seperate vans. The driving was reckless again, alongside the blasting of the air conditioning and heating, which made a few respondents sick. 

The respondents cannot remember the time when they arrived at the border (approximates coordinates 45.2184109, 16.5111607 HR), but it occured during the late evening. Again, one by one, each member of the group in transit was forced to get out of the van.

“when you go out of the van they hit you with the baton”

At the border, the respondents saw policemen destroying phones with their feet and batons. They also saw some families at this location, and suppose they had suffered the same treatment as their group.

“If it is a good phone they [the officers] steal it, if not, they destroy it”

From here, the group in transit of 14 walked what they assert to be around 50km to reach Velika Kladuša (BiH).

“The Croatian police only work with migrants. Their job is to catch migrants.  Even the Croatian people report us to the police, it is not humane”