“I asked for an advocate and a translator, but the police said 'no'”

  • Date and time: May 1, 2019 11:00
  • Location: near Gradiška, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Coordinates: 45.15918769266062, 17.24069028984377
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 4 person(s), age: 20, 26, 27, 28 , from: Morocco
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 5-10 Croatian police officers, 1 police car and 2 police vans; 3 SFA police officers in Bosnia driving one dark blue van
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, fingerprints taken, personal information taken, papers signed, no translator present
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring

Original Report

Four Moroccan men left Velika Kladuša (BiH) on April 26 around 5:00PM. They walked to the border and after crossing they walked in the forest for five days. They slept during the days and walked at night and during this time they never exited the forest.

On May 1 around 11:00AM, three police officers wearing dark blue uniforms approached the group members in the forest while they had been lying down to rest. The respondent believed that these officers had been watching them at night with night-vision goggles and that they waited for the individuals to rest before approaching them.

While the group was lying on the ground, the officers left their car on the road and walked up to the resting individuals inside the forest. The officers asked the men where they were from.

“I told them we are all Moroccan and they told us to lie on the ground and wait. Then they took our phones and money (100 Euro).”

After five minutes, two more officers came, a man and a woman around 35 years old, who were driving a white police van. The police transferred them to a police station, which was a 20-30 minute drive from the place where they were in the forest.

At the station, the police questioned each individual. They asked how many people were in the group, how many days they walked from Bosnia into Croatia, why they left Morocco, and which airport they left from in Morocco. The respondent answered all their questions, then he gave his fingerprints and signed a paper. The group stayed for two days in the station, where they were locked in a room with more people in transit who had also been apprehended. They all slept on the floor of the cell, however, they were given access to a toilet, food and water when they asked for it.

The police returned the other people in their jail cell to Bosnia, but the respondent and his three group members were not returned. They were told that after their fingerprints were given their asylum application had been refused. After two days, the police told them they must go to closed camp in Zagreb (HR).

“I asked him ‘why’? They said it’s the second time they catch us in Croatia so we must go to closed camp.”

While the four individuals were staying in the police station, the police were trying them for the crime of forcible robbery. Even though the respondent asked for an attorney, the police refused this request. In two days they were tried and convicted of the crime. They were forced to sign papers acknowledging the conviction without any translation or understanding of the documents they signed.

“I told the police I do not understand the document, but they would not give me a translator.”

It was not until they were arrived back in Bosnia and had a local person translate the documents that they understood with which crime they were convicted. They were adamant that they were innocent of this, as they described that they stayed in the forest the entire time they were in Croatia and they never encountered any other individuals that they even could have robbed. Nevertheless they were sentenced to two months in closed camp in Zagreb.

After the conviction was confirmed, the police drove the four individuals for one and a half hours from the police station to the closed camp in Zagreb. At the door of the closed camp, they were ordered to take off their clothes and put on dark blue Lotto brand clothes.

Inside the closed camp they were put in a six person room with bunk beds. The respondent reported that guards in the camp were not violent, but that some of them were racist and discriminatory. They were fed three times a day and the camp respected their Ramadan practices, making food available to them after sun down and in the early hours of the morning before the first light of day.

On May 29, after 25 days in the closed camp two police officers ordered them in a police van and drove them to the Gradiška border crossing at the Croatian/Bosnian border. The Croatian police handed the four men over to the Bosnian SFA authorities, who gave the men a document explaining that they must leave Bosnia within five days and drove the individuals to the Ušivak (BiH) camp in Sarajevo in a black van.