“The police got back into the van and took pepper spray to harm the three siblings”

  • Date and time: June 20, 2022 08:00
  • Location: Border near Velika Kladuša
  • Coordinates: 45.195623132681, 15.792618535604
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 11 person(s), age: 15-25 years old , from: Sierra Leone
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: pepper spray, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 5 Croatian police officers in dark blue uniforms, 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 pushback happened on the morning of the 20th of June 2022 from Croatia to Bosnia Herzegovina.

The respondents are a 17 years old boy and his 15 years old sister from Sierra Leone. It was their fourth attempt to enter Croatia and the European Union from the starting point of Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina where they reside in the local Borici Camp.

The transit group consisted of 11 people (6 males and 5 females). The two respondents, both minors, were traveling with their older brother aged 21 years.

They tried to cross Croatia by foot, with the intention of ultimately reaching France to proceed with their studies. Due to scarce financial resources, the group decided to go on a “full-jungle game” (people on the move usually refer to “game” talking about the attempt to cross the border in order to get to some european country, whilst “full jungle” refers to the fact that people, in this kind of game, move by walking into the forest).

The group was apprehended in the forest, approximately 1 hour away from Zagreb, Croatia. The respondents declared that they decided to call a number they refered to as IOM to express their intention to seek asylum in Croatia. Once having disclosed their location and personal details via phone, the group was asked to wait to be picked up by them. The respondents could not point to the exact location shared with the number they had previously called, as their phones were later destroyed.

The group waited for someone for what felt like 11 hours to them, in the middle of the forest. They slept in the rain with no shelter. Having lost all their hope, the group decided to keep walking the following morning. Not long after, the group was apprehended by 5 police officers wearing dark blue uniforms. The description of the police attire matches that one worn by Croatian intervention police. Their faces were visible.

The respondents stated that the Croatian police already knew the demographics of the group, as it was informed beforehand by the people that were contacted by the group. The people on the move expressed their intention of seeking asylum in Croatia again and told the police that they had themselves called what they thought was IOM to receive protection. Despite this, the group was patted down, searched thoroughly, and forced to hand over all their belongings. Everyone’s money and phones were taken. One of the respondents was caught whilst taking a video of the scene. His phone was consequently destroyed.

After about 1 hour, the group of 11 was loaded in a van. As the capacity of the van was not enough for the group, some people had to sit on the floor. The respondents describe the journey in the van as very claustrophobic due to the darkness inside, as well as to the space being overcrowded. For these conditions, the younger sister started feeling very dizzy. After many requests from the people forcibly confined inside, the van stopped. The two respondents got off the van, as their young sister was not feeling well at all by that point. The two brothers asked for some water, which the Croatian police denied. At this point, the group was in the proximity of Velika Kladusa, on the Croatian-Bosnian Border.

As the girl was not getting better, the police shouted at them to get back in the van. The two brothers beg them to wait a bit longer since the conditions of their sister were not good yet. At this point, the police got back into the van and took pepper spray. With it, they started harming the three siblings all over their bodies. The respondents describe the sensation of not being able to breathe. After this, the police left them there on the street.

The respondents report walking back to Velika Kladusa, where they were able to contact IOM. They were given food and water and transported back to Borici camp. Whilst the two respondents are now living together in Borici as they are both minors, the older brother is residing in Lipa camp because he is 21 years old. Due to the considerable distance between the two camps, this family only meets to attempt to reach a better life in Europe.