On the 26th September, at approximately 07:00, attached to a HGV (large truck), two Algerian men and a young man from Morocco left Serbia in the direction of Slovenia. After four hours clinging to the vehicle, completely soaked from the pouring rain, the group attempted to alert the driver and stop the truck. One of the men could no longer hang on, or endure the pain and severe cold, so they began to shout and to throw things onto the road to catch the attention of other drivers and stop the truck.
They began to alert people to their presence at approximately 11:00, close to the city of Zagreb (HR). The respondent reports that when the vehicle eventually stopped, the police, described as being dressed in dark blue uniforms, arrived and arrested the three men, putting them into a reported police van.
They drove for what the respondent felt was approximately 10 minutes. The respondent asked where there were going and one of the officers answered “100km away”. Nonetheless, one of the other men confirmed that they were able to see a sign on the road in the opposite direction saying “Zagreb, 3km”. The men observed this sign very shortly before the van stopped, intimating that the locations they had halted at was still in the outskirts of the city.
The three respondents recall being surprised to discover that they had been brought by the police to what they described as a makeshift garage, rather than to an official station. The conditions were described by the group as unsanitary.
“It was not a police station, it was like a room, a garage, very dirty, smelling very bad, no nice people.“
The respondents state they were taken inside the empty garage facility. The interior was very dirty and smelt bad. They describe that inside were four chairs, and the men were confronted by three policewomen and five policemen. When they entered one of the men asked for a jacket because he was wet and cold from the journey on the truck. In response to the mans request one of the officers struck him with his police baton, to make him understand that the answer was negative. The same response (baton strike) was given was given when another person in the group asked to go to the toilet. At some point, a policewoman offered them a bottle of water and a small bag of chips, after which her colleagues started to argue. The respondents suggest that the officers present did not agree with her providing them any food or water.
During their detention, which lasted approximately one hour, the officers took a picture of each person. The men were given boards to hold infront of them with their hands while the photos were taken. As no identity procedure was followed or explained to them, the transit group did not know what was written on the boards, nor the purpose of the pictures.
After this, the transit group report being taken out from the garage and back to the police van. The men were still wet from their initial journey and describe the officers as purposely putting on the air conditioning during the whole drive to make them feel even colder, and induce sickness.
“It was so cold. We were wet. They put cold air [air conditioning]. Every time one of us closing eyes, driver do like this [imitating reckless driving]. We could not sleep, They did not want us to sleep. Stop and then go and then stop [describing how the driver was stopping the van abruptly many times]. I vomited several times.”
The group was driven in these conditions for what they felt lasted four hours. Then, the two officers dropped them at the border close to BiH, where four other officers were waiting for them. They were described by respondents as wearing dark blue uniforms and jackets, with “Policija” written on their arms and what they identified the Croatian emblem sewed on. The officer began to beat the men onsite using their batons, failing to return any of the belongings confiscated.
“The first officers had put our phones in a bag and our money in an envelope. 50 euros, 100 euros. But the border police did not give it back. They kept the money and they beat us with their police batons when we asked for the phones.”
Another respondent commented:
“I had an operation here [showing the marks on his left arm] but they beat me on my arm. They see the marks and beat harder.”
The group appealed to the officers explaining that they were coming from Serbia and wanted to ask for asylum in Croatia. But the officers pushed them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country from which they had not entered Croatian territory. According to the groups description, the location is estimated to be near Stabandža (BiH), on the Croatian side of the border.
After being pushed back, the group walked approximately 20 km till they reached a small village in BiH, where there was a “big mosque”. They slept outside in the cold, with no dry clothes or any blankets. The day after, on Friday 27th September, the group noticed a road sign indicating “Bihać 60 km” to the left and “Kladuša 30 km” to the right. They walked all day in order to arrive to Velika Kladuša.