On the evening of 30th October 2019, three unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan (aged between 16-17 years old) entered the back of a truck in Serbia close to the Croatian border at the Batrovci/Bajakovo Border Crossing Point (BCP). When the vehicle passed the checkpoint on the Croatian side (Bajakovo), the three minors were detected by border police officials. One male and one female officer opened the truck and ordered the minors to step down from the trailer, where the male officer was awaiting them. The female officer, described as being around 24 years old, recognized the transit group from a previous crossing attempt and warned them not to come again.
The transit group were then quickly led into the BCP building and down a set of stairs into a small detention area below ground, where another officer was awaiting them. This officer was stated by the respondent consecutive times to be German. The respondent asserted this because the officer was wearing a German flag on the sleeves of his uniform which was an “olive-green” color.
The empty basement room, was small in proportion and was described by the respondent as only having space for “seven or six people”. It had no windows, but two doors from which you could enter. Having entered through one of the doors (coming of the flight of stairs), the respondent described the other door as being the entrance to an office. During the three minors detention in the room, the officers would retire to the adjacent room periodically (always leaving one officer to guard the group).
The three minors were subject to a pat down search, which resulted in the withdrawal of the minors telephones. The police officers also took their names, and the names of their mothers and fathers. The three minors were made to sign documents, provided only in Croatian with no translator present.
The three minors then spent the next four to five hours in the small room, being commanded to squat face down looking at their feet every time an officer was present. When they were not compliant with this order to stare at the floor, the minors were met with violence.
“If we see police, they coming to hit a lot. [The officers stating] ‘Why you look at me?’”
“They hit when you look. One police is inside, all the time.”
During their time in detention, several episodes of violence were inflicted upon the group. The respondent stated that the first he received was a series of fist punches by the male Croatian border officer that apprehended him (the assault with blows from closed fists lasting approximately 5 minutes according to the respondents statements). The officer, his female colleague, and the man in the green uniform shouted at the boys repeatedly to not look them in the face.
After the punches, the minors were left squatting in the position referenced above, but under the constant supervision of at least one officer. Later, the female officer began to strike the minors in a second bout of violence, this time with the use of a police baton. The respondent described vividly how the “German officer” also took part in the beatings. When this officer was beating him with a baton, the authority targetted the respondents right knee. The respondent tried to protect his leg by shielding it with his hands. As a result the baton strikes impacted his wrist, drawing bruising that was still present even weeks after the incident.
Not only were the minors beaten repeatedly and shouted at, but the officers also mocked and threatened them. When the respondent had asked for water, he was denied and laughed at. Because he was looking at the officer’s face when requesting, he was also called an animal and received a frontal slap in the face. The officers were also stated to have humiliated the group by feinting at delivering blows (pretending to strike for the boys) but missing intentionally every time, just to intimidate and tire the group out repeatedly.
“Inside one Croatian officer said just for joking he think about me like animals. Joking like come to hit by boxing, by stick. After that laughing, everything. [the police officer said] ‘Look at your foot’ “
After four/five hours of intimidation and violent episodes, the minors were removed from the basement and given back their phones. Before handing them over however, the officers disabled the charging slots by damaging them with a screwdriver. The three minors were then pushed roughly up the stairs by the two border officers that had initially apprehended them and transferred to the Serbian side of the border by foot. The pushback across the border occurred at approximately 9:30 in the morning on 31st October. Once ejected from Croatia, the minors were handed over to two Serbian officers that drove them to the next exit of E-70, telling them to return to Sid walking. The boys arrived back at their improvised settlement around 12:00 of October 31st.