A Syrian family joined a group of 35 people (mostly families from Syria and Palestine and a few single men from Iraq), and attempted to cross the Bosnian-Croatian border. They started walking from Velika Kladuša and walked for a day and a half through the woods and mountains. Once they were inside Croatian territory they decided to take a rest in the woods. The group fell asleep only to be woken up at 03:00 in the morning of 14th October 2019 by rapid gun fire and shouts of, “Freeze!”.
They family noticed ten men in blue uniforms of Croatian police surrounding them, firing shots in the air:
“like in a movie, they forced all men to lie down on their stomachs with our hands behind our heads, women no, they were just standing aside”.
Not long after, the police ordered them to make a line and start walking, while police was escorting the line on both sides, pointing their guns at them.
“We walked maybe 30 minutes, we reached a place with a hole already waiting for us, the fire was already burning, ready for our stuff. They took everyone’s backpacks, bags and sleeping bags and for single men they took jackets also. Everything was burned. I asked if I can take my baby’s food from the bag and they said no, took my backpack and threw it in the fire.”
They were searched over their clothes and had their phones taken away from them. Some phones were thrown on the ground and stomped-on with police boots while some were just taken away and never returned. Two police cars and three vans arrived, everyone was forced to go inside them and driven for an hour to the police station where they were detained for two hours with no food, water, access to toilet or the presence of a translator.
“They didn’t even talk to us, we asked them to take our fingerprints, one man in the group spoke good English and he explained to the police what we want (referring to asylum claim). The police was just laughing and didn’t do anything.”
Instead, the transit group were again put in the three police vans which drove for around one hour and a half to the border-area, where they were made to go out of the vans and saw six to seven police in camouflage uniforms waiting for them.
“Commandos [this described officers in uniform and masks.] in camouflage color started beating men with sticks, they beat me on my shoulder and back [he shows a picture of the bruises from his phone] and kicking us in our knees or behind our knees, yelling at us to start walking faster. They were walking behind us, beating and yelling for a few hundred meters then they stopped and we were told to continue by ourselves.”
Once returned to BiH, the group walked for four to five hours to reach Velika Kladuša, where they took the bus to Sedra camp, close to Bihac.