A group of seven men from Morocco crossed the border to Croatia from an area close to Bužim (BiH). After three days of walking, at around 01:30 in the morning on 23rd September 2020 on they were spotted by two Croatian police officers who shone a torch on them.
The group was strung out in a line, walking in pairs. When they were spotted by the officers on a small road, they started to run away. One of the police officers started to shoot in the air with a gun. The respondent was at the rear of the group, near to the police officers and heard the shots from close range, causing him to fall to the ground hard. He described how he felt that he had been badly injured on the shoulder and on his left knee, likening the pain to being shot and stating he was unable to move.
The police officers ran after the other men of the group, catching two of them, while the other escaped. The captured men started to argue with the police saying that it was wrong that they had injured their friend and asked the police officers to bring the respondent who was wounded to the hospital or to call an ambulance. The police officers denied the request and asked the two men to take him and put him in the van. They drove them until the border, driving in an eratic way that disoriented them and made them feel sick. The respondent started to yell because his leg was hurting a lot but the officers didn’t answer his request.
At around 06:00 the police officers brought all three people back near the Croatian-Bosnian border (Bužim area), where two officers with black uniforms and balaclava masks on their faces received them with the support of another four police officers on the scene. Before exiting the van, they were asked to give to the police officers all their belongings and were told to continue their way to BiH. The two men started to walk, carrying the respondent in their arms, because he couldn’t walk because of the injury to his leg. They walk around 500m and had to stop because of the difficulty of carrying the respondent. In that moment they saw another group of Moroccan men that had also been pushed back by the Croatian police. The two groups merged and they all helped the respondent to walk forward until they reached a small abandoned house, where they spent the night.
The day after they walked and arrived to a main road and they saw a big house, so one of the group decided to go to ask for help. The location of the house was around 5/6 km from where they were pushed back, in direction to the village of Vrnograc (BiH). One group member went and found a woman to whom he explained what happened and asked her to call the police. After a while, two Bosnian police officers came. They told the man who had requested help, “if you lie we will punish you”.
The police followed the person from the group to the point where the respondent and others were waiting for help. The respondent explained to them what happened and the officers agreed to call an ambulance, which arrived around 20 minutes later. The paramedic checked the respondent and told the police that the injury – severe injury to left knee – was probably caused while running and falling down. The paramedical took a bandage and cold water and put around the injury . After that he told the police to tell the respondent that if he wanted to go to hospital in Velika Kladuša he had to pay. Finally the police and the ambulance left the scene, leaving them alone.
In the meanwhile, the person that was seeking help and speaking with the local neighbor, saw a wheelbarrow and asked her if they could take it to carry the respondent. The person agreed and they walked 4.5km to arrive to her house. In the meantime, staff from International Organisation for Migration (IOM) were informed and three workers reached the house of the local woman where the group were sat waiting. The IOM staff decided to escort him to the hospital, so they asked the woman to drive him and they took the other people from the group inside their van. Once they reached the hospital in nearby Velika Kladuša, the woman went away and IOM workers accompanied him inside.
The respondent describes how he was roughly handled by the hospital staff (the same paramedic who had arrived on the scene near Vrnograc). According to the respondent, he believed the paramedic told the IOM workers in Bosnian that the respondent didn’t have anything seriously wrong. However, the respondent spent 16 days in the hospital in Velika Kladusa, before being moved to Bihać hospital in October, where he had surgery on his leg. Now the respondent is accommodated in Lipa camp, but he still cannot bend the leg that was injured during the pushback.