(For the purposes of this report the respondents name has been changed to “K.” to protect the individuals identity)
K. and her friend left from Bosnia-Herzegovina and crossed the Croatian border on Friday, 30/10/2020. K. is female (assigned male at birth) and her friend an LGBTQ+ male. After the crossing they walked for four consecutive nights, resting during the day to avoid being caught. On Tuesday, 4/11/2020, they took a bus to Split where they arrived at around 09:00. At the bus stop, they were approached by two uniformed police officers, one male, and one female. The female police officer asked for their passports.
K. explained in English that she and her friend belong to the LGBTQ+ community and would like to apply for asylum in Croatia. She asked the police to connect them with a Croatian legal organization for which she had the phone number, which could help them with their asylum procedure. K. had the number of Hrvatski Pravni Centar’s 24/7 support line but couldn’t call them herself because she had no data on her phone. The police refused to contact the number; instead, they confiscated K.’s mobile phone, turned it off, and took both of them to the police station located at the nearby docks. [https://goo.gl/maps/ZCWNua4PxjcQdqh1A]
At the station, K. and her friend again expressed the intention to seek asylum. Since there was no translator present, they spoke in English The police officer refused and, when K. asked why, said:
“Germany assigned us to do this. Germany doesn’t want us to let migrants through.”
They were given papers written in Arabic, English, and Croatian and asked to sign them. The wording of the Arabic document was vague and K. couldn’t really understand it, but she thinks it said that ‘the police tried to assist them with the asylum application but it was impossible.’ The police at the station did not use physical violence however, K. reports that they used ‘humiliating language’ and made fun of them because of their sexual orientation. She did not want to talk about specific examples, only stated that ‘Croatians don’t like gays’ and that she is used to this kind of treatment.
After signing the documents, they were placed in a waiting room. K. described the room as nice and furnished with a couch and access to a toilet. The two spent around four hours there before being taken to a white police van and driven to another police station in Vrgorac [https://maps.app.goo.gl/BH3TLCKzx5Q8zpUg7].
They arrived there around 15:00 on the same day (04/11/2020). They were brought inside the police station where they saw four other adult males from Afghanistan. There were no further administrative procedures and they did not ask for asylum again as they already suspected they would be returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Police in the same blue uniforms with Croatian flag emblems were rude to them but didn’t use physical violence. After it became dark outside (K. is not sure about the exact time but she thinks it was around 19:00), they were put in the same type of police van along with the four Afghans.
Two uniformed police officers were in the van with them, one male and one female. The van was escorted by two small police cars, one in the front and one following. There were two officers in each car, two in regular uniforms, and two wearing black clothes, military boots, and balaclavas in the other.
After a short drive (Vrgorac is close to the Bosnian border) the police opened the back door of the van and asked them to leave one by one. Two large men in black clothes were waiting outside, each person was ordered to take their clothes off, including underwear, and beaten with black batons while the others waited in the van for their turn. The remaining money and mobile phones were confiscated along with the rest of their belongings. A police dog was kept on a lead nearby, barking and scaring them. When K. came out of the van and was stripped naked, she tried to protect her face from the blows and her arm got severely damaged. The police humiliated and spat on her while mocking her with the use of stereotypically flamboyant gay gestures. The uniformed police officers didn’t participate in the beating but stood nearby watching.
After the beating, the group, completely naked, ran two hundred meters to the Bosnian border followed by the police with batons who kept beating them until they crossed. From there they walked towards the nearest Bosnian town of Ljubuški. After approximately a 15 minute walk they saw a house and received some clothes from a local woman. K. and her friend separated from the group of Afghans. When they arrived in Ljubuski they saw two police officers in a car with Bosnian plates and ‘Policija’ written on the side. The police stopped them but were kind to them, taking them to the village of Čapljina and buying them bus tickets to Sarajevo.
In Sarajevo, K. went to the Kosevo hospital, and the hospital called the police and an ambulance. She was taken to hospital in Zenica where she got an x-ray and received medical assistance. See above image showing an injury systained to her arm.