“We want asylum in Croatia, we are refugees! The police only laughed then they slapped me in the face”

  • Date and time: June 20, 2019 03:00
  • Location: Željava, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 44.85946948792225, 15.733665723998001
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 9 person(s), age: 6, 7, 23, 24, 24, 25, 21, 34, 34 , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, threatening with guns, gunshots, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 2 Croatian police dressed in black with masks over their faces, 7-8 Croatian police dressed in dark blue uniforms; one police van, one police car
  • 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: Border Violence Monitoring

Original Report

An Afghan family which included nine people, including two children, left from Bihać (BiH) on June 20 at 9:30PM. The previous night before the transit attempt, all but three men from the family were staying in a safe house near Bihać. The three men were told by the house’s security that they could not stay there so they slept in a squat nearby. On June 20, the entire family met outside the safe house and began walking to the border. 

They climbed a mountain to cross the border in the rain. They found a small road that the respondent believed nobody used. One member in the group could not walk well in the forest because he was overweight and so they walked fifteen to sixteen kilometers on this small road. Suddenly, the group members saw a car coming so they hid in the grass and once the car passed they continued on their way.

Five minutes later there was a dog barking so they hid themselves between the trees which had sharp thorns sticking out of them. They stayed there for five minutes and then they saw police lights. This was around 2:00 or 3:00AM. The respondent described that the officers shouted “come out” and they fired about three rounds of ammunition into the air, around 30 shots in total. There were nine to ten police officers present and two wore black ski masks over their faces. The other seven or eight dressed in dark blue clothes without anything on their faces.

The respondent believed that the police used night vision goggles and had seen them in the forest. Three people escaped and ran through the trees but the respondent stayed with the rest of the family. The three who escaped couldn’t find a way through the woods and the police eventually caught them and the respondent reported that the police hit them. The police had dogs that they brought close to the group. The two young girls were scared and started crying, but the police didn’t care and they just started laughing. The respondent told the police, “please stop the girls are scared.” The police replied “fuck off.” 

“Any time we tried to talk to the police they gave us one punch and one kick in the back in the head.” 

The police told the group members to take out their phones. The whole group except one man gave the police their phones. That man put his phone in his daughter’s jacket, believing that the police would not search a small girl. The police asked where is your phone, he said “I don’t have phone.” However, the police checked his daughter’s jacket and they found the phone. They started beating the man in front of his daughter. And then the male officers searched all the bodies of the women. The women and girls were crying but the police laughed. The police took all the group’s phone chargers, money (2,700 Euro), and searched their bags. The police gave the bags and sleeping bags back to the group members and told them to stay in the line where they were sitting on the ground. 

One police asked the respondent “are you the leader,” I said “no, no, no.”

The police asked where do you want to go, the respondent told them:

 “We want to stay here. We want asylum in Croatia. We are refugees.”

When he said this, the respondent reported that the police laughed and slapped him in the face. They said “here is not your house.” They told the group members to stay in the line and first the police let the children and women inside the van, and then they told the men to enter one by one. As the men entered the van, the police kicked them in their backsides and hit them in the head with their batons. 

It was dark inside the van and the police blasted the air conditioning at a very cold temperature. The police drove them around one and half hours to the border.

“We couldn’t hear anything because the sound of the cooler was so loud. It was freezing cold.”

The police drove fast, swerved a lot and braked suddenly so that the group members fell onto each other. At 6:00AM the car stopped and the police told the family to come out. There were three police officers present. The respondent explained that they started a fire. “We thought now we can go.” But they told us “throw your bag in the fire.”

The respondent was particularly upset about this because in their bags they had enough food for fifteen days, as well as new shoes and sleeping bags. 

“We didn’t throw our bags in the fire but they started beating us, so we threw it in [the fire.] They didn’t care, they just said ‘throw it.’ They even wanted our jackets  so we had to throw our jackets in too.”

The respondent asked the police about their phones and money and the police responded that “there are no phones.” One of the women in the group asked for her tablet back. She explained to the police that it was for her daughter to play games, but the police didn’t care. 

The police pointed out a windy path in the forest and told the group members to ‘go.’ On their way back through the forest, they saw bloody clothes, and what the respondent believed to be police gloves on the ground. They walked sixteen kilometers back to Bihać. A Bosnian person bought tickets for all of them to return to Sarajevo. 

Since the time that this push back occurred, one of the girls in the group has wet the bed every night.