Two families (Palestinian and Syrian) started their trip from Velika Kladuša, BiH. The families consisted on men, women and minors, including: a pregnant woman, a one year old toddler and a 10 month old infant. They entered Croatian territory and walked on foot, arriving to a river. Just as the river entered the small town of Glina in Croatia, by the building of a courthouse, at around 03.30 in the morning on 16th October 2019, they were stopped by two police officers in civilian clothes and made to enter a pick up truck.
“We asked to be taken to camp, we said ‘azil, we want azyl.’ The civilian police just laughed at us.”
The two families in transit were driven for around 1 – 1.5 km to a forest by the river, they were made to leave the vehicle. There was a steal container there and three men wearing green clothes (common uniform of Croatian Special Police). The families were forced to take their jackets off, including the children and babies (one less than two years old and one 10 months old). Describing the incident, the respondent said:
“Me and my friend had to lie down on our stomachs with our hands behind our heads, our wives and children had to kneel and put their hands behind their heads. Police was laughing and taking pictures of us.”
The families phones were broken and taken away by the officers.
“They asked me to take off all my clothes except my underwear and they were searching me, my body with their hands. My friend also. I had to take everything out of our bags and they took it away. Our wives they just searched through clothes with some machine, detector. The children were also searched, the babies’ diapers had to be taken off to search the babies. They were naked in the forest in the middle of the night.”
There was no translation offered, no papers were given, and no contact with police in uniforms (during the apprehension and transport they were only addressed by the civil clothed officers). The transit groups appeals to be taken to a “camp” (asylum centre) kept being ignored. They were not given food, when they asked for water, the police brought it, laughing. It was dirty water from the river with visible sand and mud in it. They were sitting on the ground for about one and a half hours when they were put in a police van and driven for a short time.
The van parked and didn’t move for two hours. There was no air, the pregnant woman started feeling sick and vomiting. The group started knocking on the door for help, to get air, but were ignored. After, the van started driving again with what was described as:
“insane speed on a road full of rocks. Children became sick and started vomiting. One child came back from the trip and is still sick.”
Again, the police van parked and remained parked for one hour, without explaining to the detained families in the back where they were going, why they were stopping and still being denied food and water. They were driven again, this time to the border area with BiH. When they came out of the van, there was six police officers in black clothes wearing ski masks and a cement barrier.
“They beat me with the stick behind my knee, me and my friend, in front of our wives and children. They were pushing us and yelling go, faster, faster. They were not Croatian, they spoke only English.”
They were made to climb the barrier and jump off it, the police followed them for around 200m to make sure they continued walking and then they drove off. The two families then walked around 5km to reach a town where they could find a bus to take them to Velika Kladuša, BiH.