A group of seven men from Morocco started their trip on Sunday, 27th October 2019, crossing the border from BiH-HR near the IOM run refugee camp Miral in Velika Kladuša. Shortly after crossing the border, merely 5km into Croatian territory, they were caught in the “jungle” (forest) by three Croatian police officers driving a van.
“They are not waiting for us anymore, they are on the offense, coming to stop us immediately after the border.”
The group of seven was cornered to a yard of a nearby house and searched by officers who looked through their jackets. The property owner was present while this search was happening, but did not intervene or say anything. They do not know if the police knew him before. Afterwards they were taken to the police van and pushed inside.
The seven men in transit were not explained where they were being taken, what was going to happen. The van drove them to another location in the forest, near Velika Kladuša. The respondents described the situation that followed:
“There was a hole there, waiting for us”.
“We were forced to remove our jackets, backpacks, everything we had and throw it in the hole. The police then brought gasoline, poured it over our things and set them on fire. Our phones were put in a plastic bag separately, we don’t know what happened to them, we never got them back.”
There was no official procedure conducted. Neither provided was any food, water, or translation´. The transit group did not try to express the wish to apply for asylum in Croatia. The respondent shared how being just within the interior of Croatia it seemed unbelievable to them that it would even be an option, so they did not try.
“There were three police officers in blue uniforms marked ‘Croatian police’. One of them went behind the van and when he came back, he was wearing a black mask covering his face. We don’t know why he hid his face because all three of them started beating us.”
After removing and destroying their belongings the police started beating them with their sticks.
“If you try to defend yourself, they catch you and hold you while the third one is beating. If you try to free yourself from their grip it gets worse.”
One or two of the policemen were holding the person subject to the beating, while the third one was beating them using their baton to hit their wrists, arms, stomach and back causing visible lesions and bruises on their skin (see photos below). They were then ordered to walk towards Velika Kladuša, while the police returned to the van and drove off.