A family constisting of a mother (28), a father (30), male twins (both 5) and a girl (3) accompanied by three single men (37, 32, 16), all from Iraqi Kurdistan left Velika Kladuša on May 3 at 4:00AM and crossed towards Croatia near Maljevac (HR). After three days of walking through the Croatian forests, the group was running out of food and water and the children, especially, were very hungry and thirsty, so the group decided to leave the forest and try to ring the doorbell of a local person to ask for food.
“I ring at the door and say: Please, please, can you help me, I need food for a baby!”
The inhabitants didn’t open the door even though the respondent believed they were at home as the lights were switched on when they came and were turned off when they rang.
On June 6 around 3:30AM the group was apprehended by Croatian police officers at a small street after crossing the highway D1 near Veljun (HR, see Fig. 1)
Fig. 1: Point of apprehension
“They told me: Come here, and I come here, I don’t run, because I don’t have any problems with any country, with any police, with anybody. Next time I will run.”
The two officers waiting for them in a van on the other side of the highway were wearing “local police uniform” and were described as “old” and “very nice and respectful”. They offered the children some biscuits, asked for their nationality, body searched the male individuals, took one phone from them and called for another unit that arrived after around fifteen minutes.
Two younger (at a guess aged 35-37) officers with dark blue uniforms arrived with a van that the respondents describe as a “van for bad terrorists, not for family” meaning a windowless transporter. This second police unit asked them where they were planning to go, and when they said that they intended to go to Zagreb (HR) to stay there, the officers just said “No, go back!”
They drove for fifteen minutes to a place that the respondent assumed from previous transit attempts to be a police station – even though he was not sure as the door of the van remained closed all the time – and they waited in the van for twenty minutes.
They continued to drive to a small street on the Croatian side near the border (see map), where at 4:30AM the police let all the individuals out of the van at the same time. Around ten police officers in three smaller police cars were present by then, plus the two officers driving the van. Nine of them were male, one was female, one of them was wearing night vision goggles. They were wearing no masks and were equipped with black batons, guns and torches.
They blinded the individuals with the torches, asked all people but the woman and the children for their shoes and started shouting “Go, go!”, shooting in the air and pushing them down the slope towards the border with the their black batons. (See Fig. 2)
Fig. 2: Bruise from beatings with batons
The respondents claimed that the female officer was giving the orders but not doing anything by herself. The group started running down the hill, one of the men was very slow as he was carrying two of the children. One of the officers loaded his gun, put it at the man’s temple pretending to shoot him with his children in his arms and then, instead of shooting, he beat him on the head with the stock of the gun and pushed him down the hill. The man stumbled and fell down, one of the boys injured his hand while falling. (See Fig. 3)
Fig. 3: Injured hand of one of the boys
The children were very frightened of the shooting and cried. Two officers chased the group to the river shouting “Fuck you, fuck you!” and waited until they crossed the small river (see map).
The group walked back to Velika Kladuša and was hosted for the night by a local family living next to the border.
“What happens to you? I don’t have any gun, I don’t have any knife, I don’t have anything. Why? I don’t have problem with your country, I just want to go.”