“the police used spray paint to mark the peoples heads”

Photo taken by a local of a transit group near Poljana who had spray paint on their heads. Shared by No Name Kitchen.
  • Date and time: May 6, 2020 19:00
  • Location: Close to Poljana (BiH)
  • Coordinates: 45.21447404145811, 15.92877363767891
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 20 person(s), age: 20 - 45 (unknown if minors were involved) , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), insulting, water immersion, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: Special Forces officers dressed in green uniform, four Croatian officers in black, 10 officers at the border with batons and sticks, 5 vans
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, photos taken, papers signed
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring, Balkan Info Van

Original Report

The respondent in this case, a Pakistani male, was walking through the Croatian forest on foot when the incident began. On the 6th May 2020, the transit group he was in were close to the 61 motorway, near to the Slovenian border.

Several authorities described as wearing green military style uniform with “Special Forces” written on it apprehended them and proceeded to search the group. The respondent said these authorities then called further police officers to the scene.
Soon after, four officers arrived with a van. The new authorities were wearing black uniforms. The transit group were loaded by these police officers into the rear of the van and then driven away. The van arrived at a police station where the group were taken inside, photographed and made to sign a sheet of paper.
In the station, the respondent said that he and others from the group asked for asylum. However in response the officers who heard this told them:
“Shut up”
The respondent states he was aware of at least 20-25 people detained at that point. 11 from Pakistan and other people from Afghanistan and India. The group were held for a while and given food. At approximately 16:00 the police loaded them into four different Croatian police vans.
The respondents van was driven by several officers. The van stopped at a certain point into the journey. Through the transparent partition that separate the driving cabin from the rear area, the respondent saw that the officers had got out to buy beer from the shop. The respondent shares how the police officers were drinking the entire way from the shop to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The respondent said that when the van stopped it was early evening and nearby a small river close to Velika Kladusa (BiH) which by the respondents description is likely to have been in the Poljana area. The officers unloaded the group one-by-one. Outside the van the police used spray paint to mark the peoples heads. The officers made crosses on the tops of the peoples heads and sometimes directed the paint onto their faces and mustaches.
Photo taken by a local on 6th May 2020 of a transit group near Poljana who had spray paint on their heads. Shared by No Name Kitchen.
After being sprayed with the paint, the officers ordered the group to take off their clothes and shoes, and also to hand over their money and mobiles phones, which the police put in their pockets. The officers then burnt the clothes and other belonging left over.
Poljana, border town in BiH where the pushback is suspected to have occured.
As these were destroyed, the officers arranged themselves in a line. There were about 10 officers and they stood holding batons and stick of wood. The police ordered the transit group to walk past the line one-by-one. As they did this the police beat them with the batons and wooden sticks.
After this corridor effect was used, the police pushed the men into a stretch of river that borders Croatia and BiH and shouted at them that they should never return. They then had to walk several kilometres to get back to Velika Kladusa.
The respondent states he still has pain in his leg, which can’t bear weight since the beating. He was also upset about the humiliating behavior and said the spray painting was done so the police could laugh and make them look “like monkeys”.

The respondent states that after the incident he met with the other groups that had been divided among the three other police vans. He states that they had been subject to the same process of beating and spray tagging by the police. By his count, at least 20-25 people had been affected by this incident.

Photos shared by the Guardian of people subject to the same spray painting. Taken in Miral camp where much of the transit group returned.