“"22 people inside a car, this is not humanity"”

  • Date and time: November 22, 2020 22:00
  • Location: Pljesevica mountain near Bihac, Bosnia
  • Coordinates: 44.744960811241, 15.836063272312
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 20 person(s), age: unknown , from: Pakistan, India, Nepal
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, threatening with a dog, lack of oxygen during car ride
  • Police involved: 8 male officers in light brown uniforms with camouflage texture, two of them wearing ski masks, 7 male officers in black uniforms, five of them wearing black ski masks
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: theft of personal belongings
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

The respondent is a Pakistani citizen. The group that crossed the border of Croatia consisted of 20 people from Pakistan, India, and Nepal, including 2 women. They had been walking in Croatia for eight days when they were confronted with Croatian authorities. The respondent states that the point where this happened was only 5 km away from the Slovenian border. They had crossed E61 road, which is near to Rijeka, and had continued walking for another day. As the respondent’s group did not cross another big road, the point can be specified to the area between 44 road and the Slovenian border, in the wider surroundings of the coordinates [45.430661, 14.101710]. The group was in the forest, and the respondent describes an unpaved dirt road and few house ruins in sight.

At 6:00 pm, it was dark, officers approached the group on foot. The group was split in smaller groups of around five people at this time, and the respondent’s group tried to distance themselves. But they soon realised that the officers were surrounding the whole group. The respondent explains that one of the officers pointed a gun at one of the group members, telling him “shh” to be quiet. The eight officers were all male, and the respondent describes their behaviour as very professional. He calls these officers “commando” officers. He describes the colour of the uniform as a light brown, with a camouflage texture, but he did not see more details due to the darkness. Two of the men wore black ski masks. As for  the others, their faces could be seen. The officers carried batons. The officers spoke very little, only asking a few questions: “How many people are you? Where are you from? Where are you going?”, to which the group responded. The respondent explained to the officers: “I have very problem in my country. I am looking for humanity. I am sorry to come in here illegally, but I have a real problem, look up on the Internet about my country. I am helpless. I want to stay here in Croatia because Bosnia no have good camps, no have good living system, and we have a very bad life.” He did not get a response. Instead, the group was told to stay down, to eat the food that they had brought, and to untie their shoes. All group members were forced to hand over their mobile phones, power banks, lighters, headphones, and chargers to the officers. The officers did not shout or use any physical violence at this point, but threatened: “When you run, we will beat you.” The respondent observed that the officers put the valuables in their pockets, but at no point did they hand them over, neither back to the group members nor to the other officers arriving.

After what felt like one hour to the respondent, two male police officers in black uniforms arrived. They had a white van, “policija” written on it. They spoke to the “commando” officers present. After a few minutes, they told all group members to get into the car. The respondent describes that the van had a capacity of maximum ten people, so it was very full and tight with the whole group inside. Some people sat, others had to stand. The van did not have windows, and the respondent says that lack of oxygen was a problem. Several people threw up. The respondent says that the van drove for three and a half hours – he is able to specify this because one group member wore a watch.

The group was driven to a police station. The respondent remembers that he saw a traffic sign with “Zagreb”, “Bihac” and one third city written on it, so he assumes that the police station was near Zagreb. They arrived at the police station at around 9 o’clock. The respondent explains that he had been in the same police station in previous attempts to cross Croatia. The building is white, has two levels, and it is surrounded by other houses. The respondent reports that the group had to leave the van but did not enter the police station. Other deported people were already present. One of the officers kicked the respondent in the back when coming out of the van. In front of the station, they were forced to “open all things”: One by one, they had to take out everything their backpacks contained, and the officers checked all belongings as well as the group member’s clothes in detail. 20 euros that the respondent had in the pocket of his trousers were also taken away from him. He asked to keep the money:

“I have no food and many problems when I go back to Bosnia. Please give me my money, only 20 euro.”

The officer still took the money, and likewise did so from the other group members:

“He takes everything.”

The respondent explains that he also had a golden necklace from his mother that the officer took. Apart from these valuables, including  nail clippers and other small objects, the group members were allowed to keep their belongings.

After this procedure, the group was forced to go back in the van one by one. Two other male police officers in black uniforms took over, they wore black ski masks. Each person was hit with a baton:

“He pushed very hard one stick. To all people.”

The respondent states that the enlarged group was now split into two vans, 22 people being forced into his van, two more than before.

“22 people inside a car, this is not humanity.”

The van drove for around two and a half hours. Towards the end, they were passing on an unpaved dirt road, and even though the ground was very bad, the van rolled with very high speed. When they arrived, the area looked much different than before. Apart from the dirt road, the respondent describes a mountain and grass around him, with only a few trees.

When the group arrived, it was still dark, and a hole was prepared in the ground in which a big fire was burning. The respondent cannot specify the time, as the watch had been taken away from the other group member. One additional van was present, so five officers were present in total. This second van only provided light, three officers with black masks stayed inside the car. Every group member had to leave the van one by one. They were beaten and forced to undress:

“He beats too much.”

They had to take off their jackets and jumpers, and their backpacks. People that wore multiple pants were being hit with a baton again and had to give all of their additional pants until they had only one layer left. “Only one t-shirt, and one pant.” Some were commanded to also take off their shoes, but not the respondent. All the belongings were thrown into the fire, and accompanied by additional beatings with batons. The group was then forced back into the car, once again. The respondent describes that at this point, many people suffered different kinds of injuries and had difficulties walking – including the respondent, who had received multiple hard baton hits on his knee.

The van drove for what felt like an hour to the respondent. Both vans arrived at a point close to the Bosnian border. At a short distance, they saw concrete blocks on the dirt road that constitute the border. The officers of the second van had a big dog with them and the group was told to stand in line. Each one was asked: “Do you come back to Croatia?” Not awaiting his answer, they beat the respondent three times and made him walk towards the border. The group passed the border on Pljesevica mountain, south of Bihac. On their way back to Bihac, they passed the high television antenna, walking in the northern direction for about ten hours. When the sun rose, they were still in Pljesevica mountain. They did not meet any Bosnian police officers.