The group of fourteen (five children, five men, four women) conducted two transit attempts over the span of one week at the beginning of June. It is of note that the group was apprehended by Croatian police very near to the border, at identical locations, both times in which they were apprehended.
During their initial transit attempt, left from Velika Kladusa late in the evening of June 4th. The group was then stopped shortly after the border, while crossing a bridge, by five Croatian police officers at around midnight. The respondents described being stopped by five police officers who wore uniforms consisting of light blue t-shirts, black pants, and a hat with the Croatian flag on it.
“They were waiting”
One of the officers was described as being overweight and standing approximately 170 cm tall. He was described as clean shaven, with green eyes, and wore eyeglasses, and was approximately 45 years old.
The officers told them to give over their phones, and they did. They quickly walked the group the short distance back to Bosnian-Croatian border and told them to “Go, go, go!” During this confusion, the father in the group got into an argument with one of the officers over his shoes, the officer forcefully pushed him to continue towards the border at which point the father tripped over his daughter who was walking next to him. The girl fell onto her elbow on the ground, sustaining an injury that was later treated by a local doctor in Velika Kladusa in the following days.
Several days later, in the late evening of the 7th of June, the group again attempted to cross the Bosnian-Croatian border. They attempted to cross at the same location as their previous attempt, approaching the same bridge that they had previously been apprehended on. According to the respondents, they had believed that this location would be safe this time since they intended to wait until the officers’ shift had changed.
The group was caught again by the Croatian police in the same location which they had been caught on the evening of June 4th, earlier in the week. One of the respondents described the group as walking across the bridge at which point a car of five police officers pulled up behind them. The respondent inferred that they had been watching the group and waiting for them to pass over the bridge. The respondents described being approached by the officers at around 1:30 am in the early morning hours of June 8th. While this process occurred, one civilian car passed by the group on the bridge.
The officers told them to stop and sit on the ground, which the group complied with. They were then told by the officers to hand over their phones, which the group complied with. One of the officers opened a group-members’ phone and searched his for his mapping application, and observed to the man that he had the app Maps.Me on his phone. The respondent inferred that for this reason his phone was later broken. The police officers broke the telephone with a flashlight, smashing the screen. Not all of the group-members’ phones were broken.
The respondents described that on this occasion, the Croatian police officers were comparably violent. During their exchange with the officers, one of the officers was described as feigning as if he were going to strike a mother in the group with his fist. The officers were also described as striking one of the female group-members with an open hand in the left eye.
The officers demanded that the five male group-members take off their shoes and give them over. The respondent remarked that he believed this was an attempt to deter further transit attempts:
“If we don’t have shoes, we can’t come again.”
The officers told the group “Take your phones and go”, and the group collected the smashed remains of their mobile phones and belongings. However, when the male group-members attempted to take their shoes back, they were told to leave without them.
When the group-members picked up the rest of their belongings, the officers told the group:
“Go ahead, take your garbage.”
The group was then walked back to the border. After crossing back into BiH, the group walked approximately one hour back to Velika Kladusa. In total, the group only described spending approximately 15 minutes in interaction with the Croatian police officers.