It was night time on 22nd September 2019 when a group of six people, three Moroccans and three Algerians, who had left from Šturlić (BiH) five days before, were caught by the Croatian police near Rijeka (HR). The respondent described four officers dressed with blue shirts and black jackets. They had the emblem of the Croatian police sewn onto their uniform.
The six people was taken to a police station in Rijeka and detained for approximately two hours. The respondent said that there was a policewoman among the officers at the police station. There, the officers took their picture, their fingerprints, and had them sign a paper, although no translator was present to explain the content. The six people were also denied food and water.
Then the group had to enter in a white police van with six other people: two from Syria, four from Pakistan. The passengers now numbered twelve (and will be referred to during the rest of the testimony as an entire transit group).The merged transit groups were driven to the border with Bosnia, another police car accompanying the van in escort fashion.
Once at the border, the twelve people had to walk under police supervision for about one kilometer to a place where they was a “block of concrete” and six officers waiting for them. Describing the following events, the respondent stated that the officers stood by the concrete border marker:
“took our phones, our backpacks, our sleeping bags. And they beat us.”
The respondent described how the police wielded batons and beat him, striking him several times on different parts of his body. All twelve people were beaten by the officers, “one by one”. The six officers waiting at the border stood in a line as the group were ordered to move forward. As the transit group passed (with the officers on their left hand side, the police began kicking and beating with fists and batons.
One person was struck on the head, causing multiple lacerations to the skin, bruising and blood loss. Describing the ordeal the respondent shared:
“I was on the ground and they beat me on the head with their batons. I feel dizzy (imitating dizziness and fainting).”
After the beating, the transit group was told to leave and cross back into BiH. They started walking in the dark of the night and arrived in Velika Kladuša, approximately twelve kilometers away, on the morning of 23rd September 2019. The exact location of the pushback is unknown given that none of the group had any phones left to check the GPS (given all items were kept by the police). Moreover, it was night time, the people-on-the-move were in shock, and the one beaten on his head was bleeding and needed assistance to walk, as he was feeling dizzy. The respondent also shared that the group was very afraid that the police would follow them to make sure they would not walk back.