“"It was the first thing they did, to take away all our cell phones to eliminate evidence."”

  • Date and time: July 30, 2022 05:00
  • Location: near Velika Kladuša
  • Coordinates: 45.187439528732, 16.0780788351
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 28 person(s), age: 20-40 years old , from: Cameroun, Kongo
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: threatening with guns, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 6 Croatian border officers (5 in dark blue shirt, black pants, marked as police, 1 all in black (boots, polo-shirt, pants) without being marked as police; all wearing arms; 2 police vans (brand Peugeot, white color, marked with police), 2 smaller police cars (1 of them brand Seat, white color, marked with police)
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Unknown
  • Reported by: Blindspots

Original Report

The respondent is 37 years old and comes from the Congo.
The group with which they were traveling on July 30, 2022, consisted of 28 people: 10 women and 18 men. The respondent says that after walking for about 45 minutes on Croatian territory, at about 5 o’clock in the morning, the group suddenly saw two policemen. A police car had cut them off at this place where there was a crossroads. They do not remember exactly where on the map this place was, but it was a crossroads with a main road and a smaller gravel road. One of the two policemen shouted loudly, “Stop, stop. Sit down!”. At the same time, he took the pistol out of the holster and raised it in the air. They had ordered them to sit down on the ground. A third policeman, who was sitting in the car, joined the two. He made a phone call. In the conversation of the three policemen, the respondent picked up the word camera, after which he suspected that they had been spotted by a camera. In addition, the two policemen had binoculars with them. The first thing they did was to ask the group what nationality they were. They answered that they were from Congo and Cameroon. The second question was how many people were in the group. Then the policeman told them not to be afraid, they should just stay seated.

Then all three policemen went to the car and took out gloves and examined the group one person at a time. Each person had to empty their pocket and show what was inside. All the cell phones and all the things associated with them were confiscated, for example, chargers, power banks, headphones, the respondent said. “It was the first thing they did, to take away all our cell phones to eliminate evidence.” Everything, he said, they put in a bag and placed on the ground a bit away from the group. By the time they were done investigating, a mini-van arrived. “They must have already been waiting for us at this place, because the mini-van took no more than five minutes to arrive at our place after the phone call.” Then the group was split up arbitrarily: two women, for example, had been separated from their husbands, the repondent stated. Part of the group, perhaps half, was taken into the mini-van and driven away. The respondent, as well as the rest of the group, had been ordered to remain seated. “It was very cold because the ground was wet and we had to stay sitting on the ground the entire time.” The respondent says that they had to wait maybe thirty minutes and that meanwhile they were guarded by two policemen. In the process, they would not have been allowed to speak; they would have had to get permission to do so by holding out their hands. “I felt like I was a prisoner.” When a second mini-bus arrived, we were brought in as well. The plastic bag with the things they had taken from the people first, they would have loaded into the front of the mini-van with them.

According to the respondent, six policemen and one policewoman were present in the situation. All of them, except for the one who drove the Seat at the beginning, wore a dark blue police-tenu and black pants. All of them were armed. The two police officers who tracked them down were each wearing a star on their chest. This would have probably expressed their officer degree. In total, there were four police cars. The sixth policeman would have been dressed all in black: a black polo shirt, black pants and black boots. He was not marked anywhere as a police officer, but he was also armed and drove away in the Seat, with the inscription police, when the first mini-van arrived.
Two mini-vans and two smaller cars were present in the situation. The two mini-vans were white from the outside, with the police inscription on them and of the brand Peugeot. One of the two smaller cars was Seat, the other one is unknown. All of them had the inscription Police on them. The respondent described that inside the mini-van it was dark at first and later they turned on the lights. There was a ventilator on the ceiling. There had also been a spare car tire inside and there had been two seats in the front, then a gap and two longitudinal benches in the back. “There was no chance to look outside in any way, everything was closed off. Even the view to the driver’s seat was blocked by an aluminum cover.” The door could only have been opened from the outside.

The respondent and his group were driven to the Bosnian-Croatian border in two mini-vans. They had driven only on very bad roads and very fast. “There must have been many holes in the road. It hit us so hard from one side to the other. We got really sick and we were all about to throw up.” In addition, he said, they were sitting very close together.
Presumably, the police would have left both groups in the same place, but the first group had arrived about ten minutes earlier and had already been walking a bit. However, they would not have had cell phones for orientation and therefore would not have gone far. The respondent who was in the second group described that the pushback location had been on a hill. However, he could no longer say exactly at which location. The police officers had pushed the group down the hill by following them. At the bottom, he said, they returned the bag of possessions to this second group. Then they would have yelled at them, “Go, go. Don’t look back.” There was no road in this place, only forest. The group had wandered around disoriented until, after a few minutes, they had encountered a group of people from Pakistan who had also come running back directly from a pushback. This group then showed them the way back. It was not until 1 p.m. that the group arrived back at their starting point.
Later, they would have noticed that many of the cell phones had damage because they were all thrown together in that bag. Some of them had damage to the screens or malfunctions.