In late February, a group in transit, composed of five Moroccan men aged between 22 and 25 years old, left Velika Kladuša in the direction of Trieste (ITA). Together, they succeeded in reaching Zagreb (HR) on the 24th of February. The group rested within the city close to the center in a flat where they joined other groups in transit (roughly 25 other people: aged between 17 and 25 years old, originating from Egypt, Morocco and Algeria). The group of five respondents inferred that someone nearby called the police:
“It’s a neighbor who call police to say there is a lot of immigrants here” precises one of them.
At roughly 9.00 am in the morning, about 16 Croatian officers (including two women) entered the apartment. The officers wore different kinds of uniforms, but all were described as having stars and the Croatian flag. Their clothes were dark blue and black with the word “Policija” written on the back. When the officers broke into the flat, they shouted to the group of 30 persons “Sit down!”. Following this, all of the respondents were frisked. One officer took a plastic bag from his pocket and forced each respondents to put their money and phones inside. One of the respondents recalled the scene as follows:
“Your money, your phones on the bag and go to the van”
The group inferred that the police who apprehended them at the appartement did not rush them because they were in the city and there were many witnesses. The 30 people in transit had to exit the flat into vehicles: two official police cars and three official vans. The group was split into three; with eight persons in each van. In the two cars, the respondents could not recognize the suits nor the gender of the officers since they sat in front.
After roughly ten minutes of driving in a windowless and cold van, the group arrived in a police station in Zagreb (HR). The 30 persons were detained together in what the respondents qualified as a “classroom” in the police office. The respondents described waiting for one and a half hours before an officer began dealing with the group. One by one, the respondents had to enter into a small room where several pictures were taken of their faces and their profiles while they held up a paper with their nationalities, names and surnames, addresses, ages and parents’ names. Just one of the respondents had his fingerprints taken. He explains :
“[The policeman said] I know you, every times you come back, so I will take your fingerprints”
The respondent in question explained that during his several previous times being pushed-back, his fingerprints were taken at different police stations. He inferred that this was the reason the police officer in Zagreb was able to access previous information registered about this respondent (name, age, nationality …) and wanted to save his fingerprints at that police station as well.
The group of respondents spent the entire day detained at the police station without any official translator; until 11.00 pm when they noticed a change in the police team. The respondents explained that one officer spoke to them in English and that they could understand “sometimes”.
25 persons from the initial group of 30 were forced to go into three vans. The five others were Egyptians and were kept at the police station. The respondents explained that before they were led out, one officer asked them if they had come from Bosnia-Herzegovina or from Serbia, in order to deport them to the last country they were. Around this time, one officer that they had not seen before, was “playing” with them; pushing them and hitting them with his hand around the face and on the head. Outside, the group of respondents were again split in three groups. Thus, only the Moroccans and Algerians persons had to go into three non-official white vans ; waiting for them in front of the police station. Once inside the van, the driver asked the groups to give him their money. The respondents imitated him: “give me your money, give me kuna ! ”
“It has been a big changing of mentality, this team of police was very bad”
The group of respondents noticed the harshest behaviour from those new officers. All of them wore black clothes, and were male. The respondents described a two hours marked by reckless driving with the air conditioning on. People vomited inside. After coming to halt, the non-official vans stopped at the end of a path in a forest (approximate coordinates 45.210948, 15.927609 HR). The drivers opened the van doors after going to the back on the vans. One of the officers ordered the respondents to leave the vehicles “one by one, in a line”. After a few seconds walking in the forest, the group was surprised by four officers wearing black clothes and ski masks.
“Four policemen was hidden just near to the vans, on the forest and when we walked past them, they [scared] us to hit us with batons”
The group of respondents were chased by four officers with batons for several meters = until they succeeded to cross the border. After this, the group walked to Velika Kladuša (BiH) for several hours on the morning of the 25th of February.