Fortress Europe: illegal push-backs and border violence report

This harrowing report presents testimonies of refugee people attempting to reach the safety of Europe from Bosnia into Croatia and Slovenia. It details the brutal methods the police in the region is using in order to prevent people from moving towards the EU, or claiming asylum. All testimonies are gathered from oral interviews via a standardised framework used by the grassroots organisations working in Velika Kladuša. The full report is available here.

CW: violence, injury, racism, sexual assault, police brutality

REPORT [1]

Type of Incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — ROBBED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES

Location: The group was caught by the police in the inner Croatian land, close to the village Stara. The violent incident happened by the Croatian border with Bosnia, nearby Velika Kladusa official border check-point.

Number of victims: 3.

Interview was conducted with all group members with the help of a translator from Arabic to English.

Names: Farhan, Hussein, Ahmad

Country of origin: Algeria and Morocco

Age: All are between 30–40 years old.

Sex: Males

The men were caught by the Croatian police 02/10/2018, around 10 pm. Pushed-back and violently attacked by the Croatian police 03/10, around 4 am.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INDICENT

Farhan, Hussein and Ahmad walked from Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and crossed to the Croatian territory and wanted to continue further into Europe, with the intention to reach Italy and seek asylum there. After three days of walking, the men almost reached Slovenia. They were walking in a forest, close to the village Stara, but were detected by the police.

A Croatian female police officer who caught them, asked them for their identification and questioned the men about their plans in Slovenia. According to Farhan, the officer treated them with respect and they did not have any problem with her. Following the short verbal investigation by a female officer, all of them were then transported by a police car to the police station by the Bosnian border where they were handed over to the Croatian border police.

When the men were handed over to around 10 border police officers, Ahmad recalled that they started to be treated like animals. The border police firstly frisked their bodies and then took all their phones and money. The men were told that once they were going to be deported, all their possessions would be returned to them, but they received back only their phones that were completely damaged. Hussein said that one police officer, a bald man in his 40s or 50s with blue eyes, was particularly rude and aggressive towards them. When the men tried to ask the police whether it was possible to apply for asylum in Croatia, the bold man shouted at them something in Croatian they did not understand and hit them with a baton. According to Hussein, this man was probably the one who later, during their deportation back to Bosnia, was attacking them the most.

After the body frisk, the men were then transported by a van to a forest location at the Croatian- Bosnian border, where they were pushed back from the Croatian side to Bosnia and physically attacked:

“They [police] put us into a big car and were driving us very fast, so us inside were falling from one side to another. They [the police] kept turning on the heater, really high, and then would switch on air conditioning on very high, so we had problems to breathe and we felt sick. The car stopped in some derelict place. We were sitting and waiting inside of the car for a very long time. I think the police was waiting till it got dark outside, so no one could see how they were attacking us. When it was around 4 in the morning, they [the police] told us to get out of the car. It was really dark; the lights of the police car were also switched off. We started to feel the hits of batons from all sides and could hear the screams of the police attacking us. I think all ten of them were beating us and shouting at us to go back to Bosnia. I did not even know from where the blows were coming from, we could just feel them, everywhere, on our back, legs, head, face…. This is racism” (Hussein).

After the attack and push-back to Bosnian territory, the men had several injuries, and had to walk back to the makeshift camp in Velika Kladuša, where their journey started.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

Ten Croatian border police officers, wearing black uniforms. The one who was particularly rude and aggressive towards the men was a bald man between 40–50 years old, with blue eyes.

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

All men had bruises and scratches on their body caused by the attack with the police batons –Hussein had scratches on his face and back, Farhan had bruised legs, and Ahmad had pain in his back. The men were treated by a No Name Kitchen nurse but refused to visit the Medicines Sans Frontiers medical team as they felt they were not seriously injured.

REPORT [2]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — ROBBED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES — SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Location: The group was aprehended in the car by the police in the inner Croatian land, 10–15 km away from Bihac (exact location unknown)

Number of victims: 6.

Interview was conducted with one group member in English.

Names: Fajsan (interviewed)

Country of origin: Iran and Iraq

Age: Fajsan is 29 years old and his wife is 31 years old. A man from Iraq is 54 years old.

Minors in the group: Yes, Fajsn’s daughter is 3 years. Two more children involved — 12 years old boy and 16 years old girl.

Sex: 3 males and 3 females

Date and time: The group was caught by the Croatian police and deported back to Bosnia 01/10/2018.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT

Fajsan with his wife and three year-old daughter, together with one more family from Iraq (father and two children), walked from Bihac (Bosnia and Herzegovina) into the Croatian territory- around 5km in the inner Croatian land- from where they were picked up a car organised by a smuggler. Fajsan said that they paid a smuggler 1000 euros per one person to be transported from Croatia to Slovenia, where they wanted to apply for asylum. Fajsan explained that he had been violently pushed back from Croatia several times. He wanted to apply for asylum with his family, and for this reason he wanted to go to Slovenia to apply for asylum there. Fajsan believed that without help of a smuggler, it would be impossible for his family with a small child to reach Slovenia by foot.

After around 10 km of driving with a smuggler inside of Croatia, their car was detected and began to be chased by five police cars who were simultaneously firing at them in order to make the driver stop. When the driver (smuggler) stopped, around seven police officers told the families and the driver to get out of the car. Fajsan said that the driver got arrested for an illegal transport of undocumented persons.

Then, the officers (all males) told the families to lay on the ground and frisked their bodies, including that of  women and children.

“They told us to lay on the ground, all of us, also my baby. They did not speak nice to my baby. My friend, the man from Iraq, was telling the police: “I am a Muslim, please help me.” And the police said: “The Muslims killed my father during the war, I don’t want to help you.” I told them that the one man who killed his family was not my friend and asked them why they don’t speak nice to me. He [the police] said to me: “Shut up” and kept speaking to me in very bad way, calling me “pička ti materina” (mother fucker) … They [the police]  performed a body search on me, but also on my wife and my daughter. They were touching them and kept touching them. You know, they were touching me wife everywhere. I said to them: “Please, brother, don’t touch my wife and daughter, please, don’t touch them”. I kept asking them, “please, don’t touch them”. But they told me: “Shut up!” and kicked my legs [covering his eyes with hands]. I asked them what happened because I am not a terrorist, I am a refugee. This is not good behaviour towards us”(Fajsan).

Fajsan asked the police whether him and his family could apply for asylum in Croatia and access the formal accommodation asylum centre there. The police told him, “ok, we will take you to the camp”. But instead transporting them to a formal camp, the families were driven directly to the Bosnian border for their deportation. According to Fajsan, they were transported to the border by a big van that was driving very fast and turning from right to left, so that everyone inside of the van was falling from one side to another. The car stopped at the Bosnian border, in a ramote forest location, around 20 km away from Velika Kladuša.

At the border, the police told Fajsan and others to give them all their possessions, such as cigarettes, money, phones. They stole Fajsan’s 200 euros and from others around 100 euros each. Then, the officers told the families to go back to Bosnia, pushing them and attacking them with batons:

“At the border, after they robbed us, they pushed my wife and shouted at her to go back to Bosnia. They kept telling her bad things. They also pushed my friend, who is fifty years old,  and now he has a problem with his knee. My friend told me: “Don’t worry, come and we will go to Croatia later”. The police could hear that and said: “You want to go to Croatia after?” and took a baton and hit this man’s legs. They were acting towards us like we were terrorists. …There was another Pakistani man who was being deported with us and I could see how the police was hitting him with a baton” (Fajsan).

After the attack, the families walked back to Velika Kladuša. Fajsan said that he was very frustrated by the asylum and border system in Europe, which gives him no options to find a peaceful life for him and his family:

“I just want to find a safe place, not too much money or big house. I just want a peaceful life. Look [showing the photo of his destroyed car after an explosion by the Iranian Government], I had problems with the Government in Iran. I just want a safe place in Europe and peace”(Fajsan).

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

The group was being deported by twenty Croatian border officers, wearing blue uniforms.

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Fajsan’s friend had a pain in his knee after the attack by a baton. Fajsan’s wife was traumatized by the sexual harassment by the male Croatian police officers, when they were frisking her body, and since then, she is afraid to move around the camp unaccompanied.

REPORT [3]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — ROBBED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES — THREATENED BY GUN

Location: The group was caught in a forest in the inner Croatian land, unknown location.

Victims: Number of victims: 34.

Interview was conducted with one group member in English.

Names: Amin (interviewed)
Country of origin: Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Age: Amin is 21 years old and others from his group are between 16 and 40 years old.

Minors in the group: Yes, two (16 and 17 years old)

Sex: Males

Date and time: The group was caught by the Croatian police 03/10/2018 around 11am. They were deported back to Bosnia and attacked the same day around 3pm.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INDICENT

The group of 34 people from Bangladesh walked from Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Croatia. Amin recalled that they did not have a GPS, but they were led by two young Afghani boys, whom Amin called “leaders” and who were paid by the group for showing them the way to Italy. Amin told us that they wanted to reach Italy and apply for asylum there.

The second day of walking at around 11 am, the group was caught by seven men in a civilian car. The people in the car had guns and claimed to be the Croatian police although they did not wear uniforms. Some men tried to run and hide in the bushes, but the “police” pulled their guns out and started shouting at everyone to come out of the bushes otherwise they were going to kill them. Since everyone was scared, they came out of bushes. The policemen were acting aggressively towards Amin and others from his group. Amin reported that the police was pointing guns at them and threatening them:

“I was really scared as when the police caught us, they pointed the gun against me, and told me to not move. I was very scared. They told us: “If anyone runs away from here, we will shoot them” (Amin).

Later, the police told everyone to sit down in the line and give the police all their possessions. Amin said that the police stole his bag where he had his phone and 165 euros:

“All of us had to sit down in the line, and police told us to put our bags in front of us. After, the police told us to take all our stuff out of our bags, one by one. Everyone had to give everything they had to the police; mobile, money, wallets. They took everything we had. They also body-searched us, and if they did not find anything, they would tell us to go inside the car. They took all of our bags, mobiles, power banks” (Amin).

Following the frisk of the men’s bodies, this group of policemen in civilian clothes called other police officers- some in blue uniforms and others in black clothes- who arrived at the place of their detention in a police white van. Then, this new police group transported the men to the Bosnian border. On the way to the border, the car stopped twice to pick up more people for their deportation back to Bosnia. The journey to the border took around one and a half hour. Amin said that they arrived at the Bosnian border around 3pm. Amin asked the police whether he could apply for asylum in Croatia but got no response from them.

At the border, the police deported all the men, one by one, back to Bosnia and physically attacked them:

“The police told one man to come out of the car, and they closed the door. We could hear how they [ the police] were hitting him so much. And after, they ordered other people to come out one by one. There was a wall by the road, there the police were standing with sticks, and later was another wall, where there were other policemen, also with sticks. So, two police were hitting us before that wall and when we crossed this wall, another two police men, who had masks, were again hitting us. We could see only their eyes. They  all people and after when we were walking down, they were kicking us. And when we were walking away from Bosnia, they run and again hit us from the back to tell us to go fast” (Amin).

The men walked down from the hill where they were pushed back by the police officers, and they found the first man from their group who was attacked. He had few of the men’s bags, as one of the police officers gave it to him after the attack, but when they opened the bags, they were either empty or full of broken phones, chargers with cut cables and empty wallets:

“They also broke our chargers, took my phone and my official registration paper in Bosnia.” (Amin).

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

The group was caught by six men who claimed to be the Croatian police. They had no uniforms, civil car and were equipped with pistols. This group called police officers, 6 men, who deported the men back to Bosnia. Amin said that the police who deported them were two drivers, two police officers in blue uniforms, and two men wearing black clothes with masks.

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Amin’s friend had fractured arm caused by the attack by the police baton, and he had to put it in a cast. Anothr, 36 years old man from Bangladesh, had fractured toe and pain in a leg muscle, so that he walks with the support of a walking stick. Other men had scratches around their body (back, neck, legs, arms) and pain caused by the attack by batons and kicks.

REPORT [4]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — ROBBED-PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES

Location: The group was caught in the car by the police in the inner Croatian land, in a small forest.

Victims: Number of victims: 8.

Interview was conducted with one group member in English.

Names: Mohammad
Country of origin: Afghanistan

Age: Mohammad is 22 years old and other group members are between 20 and 30 years old.

Minors in the group: No

Sex: Males

Date and time: The group was deported back to Bosnia and attacked by the Bosnian border 05/10/2018, late at night.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INDICENT

The group of 8 men, all from Afghanistan, walked for three days from Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina) into Croatia. They wanted to continue to Slovenia, where they wanted to apply for asylum. Mohammad recalls that two days before reaching Slovenia, four Croatian police officers detected them in a small forest inside of the Croatian territory.

When the police caught the group, they sprayed an irritant spray into the men’s faces and eyes. After that, the police questioned the men about their nationality and intentions in Croatia. Mohammad asked the officers whether he could apply for asylum in Croatia, but they just smiled at each other and did not respond.

Mohammad said that it was afternoon when they were caught. The police acted aggressively towards the men and kept shouting at them. The police then locked the men into a container of a police van, where they were detained for several hours. When it got dark outside, other ten policemen arrived and deported Mohammad and other group members to the Bosnian border.

At the Bosnian border, the police told the men to get off the van. Firstly, the officers broke the men’s phones and robbed them, taking all their money:

“They took my money and stole everything and broke my phone. No money. From home, they sent us money, we bought new phones and power banks, but everything we bought, they stole and broke again” (Mohammad).

Then, the officers attacked Mohammad and others from his group by batons, pushed them into a river, and shouted at them to go back to Bosnia:

“When they were deporting me, they were beating me very hard. They were beating other people. Two people beating us, they also threw us to river, and kept pushing us to the river. They were behaving like animals” (Mohammad).

Mohammad showed his back where he had a red mark from the attack by the police baton and complained that he is in great pain:

“I cannot sleep, I sleep like on other site, on my belly because my back is in too much pain. And this is the problem with the Croatian police because this is not only one time, more time they act like this and with more people, not only with me. People had their hands, fingers, legs broken”(Mohammad).

After the attack and push-back Mohammad and his friends walked back to the makeshift camp in Velika Kladuša.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

Mohammad described the police officers in the following way:

“We were caught by four police men. One of the police who caught us was fat, some could be forty years old, others thirty years old. After, they brought the car and 10 police coming for our deportations in blue uniforms” (Mohammad).

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Pain and red mark on the back caused by the attack by a police baton.

REPORT [5]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE –DAMAGE OF PHONES

Location: The group was caught by the police in the inner Croatian land, in a forest around 50 km away from Zagreb (exact location unknown). The physical attack took place at the Croatian border with Bosnia, near by the official border check-point in Maljevac.

Victims

Number of victims: 10.

Interview was conducted with one group member in English.

Names: Aazar (interviewed)
Country of origin: Afghanistan (7), Iran (3).

Age: Aazar is 19 years old and other group members are between 20 and 30 years old.

Minors in the group: No

Sex: Males

Date and time: The men were caught by the Croatian police 08/10/2018, in the afternoon. They were deported back to Bosnia and attacked at the Bosnian border the same day, around 8 pm.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT

Aazar and other nine young men walked from Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Croatia with the intention to reach Zagreb and apply for asylum there. The men walked for two days in a rainy weather. When they were approximately 50 km away from Zagreb, walking through an unmarked forest location, they got detected by the Croatian police. Aazar said that the police who caught them wore civilian clothes, and later called other 7 officers who were in police uniforms and to whom the men were handed over.

The police, who arrived at the place of detention, questioned Aazar and his friends about their identities and intentions in Croatia. Aazar explained to the police that he was from Afghanistan and wanted to apply for asylum in Zagreb:

“I told them that I wanted to stay there [Croatia] if they would allow me. They just asked me from where I was, my age, what was my name, but no finger print. If they take fingerprint no problem, I give my fingerprint to take asylum. But they don’t give us asylum, for us. My friend also told them: “I go to Zagreb and I will stay there.” But the police just said to him: “Zagreb is not good for you, Zagreb is full, very bad condition. Camp is full.” But that time my other friend also said: “No problem, I want to stay in Zagreb.” Another police man told us: “Why you don’t want to go to Germany, France?” like this” (Aazar).

The police did not allow Aazar and others to access the asylum procedures. Instead, they directly deported them to the Bosnian border. Before they were deported, the police had taken all their phones. Aazar told that they were transported to the border by a van, which was driven very fast, so that everyone inside was falling from one side to another and some of them got sick:

“Three persons were vomiting. They were vomiting inside of the car because they [police] were driving fast and swinging the car like this” (Aazar).

When the men arrived at the border, they were given their phones back, but all destroyed. Then, the officers told the men to come out of the car, one by one, followed by physical attacks by batons and kicking. Aazar told me that when they were coming out of the car, three police officers were standing on the left side and other three on the right side, creating a line, through which Aazar and other men had to walk through while they were being beaten:

“When we went out from the car, they beat us very much, very badly. They were kicking me. One was a woman, taking a stick into her hand. I fell down, and they continued kicking me into here, here and here [pointing at his neck, hip, and groin] … I was very tired, very confused about everything. When we were out of the car, they just beat us. Two days not good food not water, two days in rainy jungle, rainy night, up to morning we woke up in the jungle. When police catch, they behave like this. … I think it is not fair to beat refugees and not right. We are not criminals. Just we want to go out of here” (Aazar).

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

Aazar told that they were deported and attacked by 7 police officer. All of them wore police uniforms, and one of the aggressors was a woman.

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Aazar had pain in his body (neck, hip and groin), but refused to go to see a doctor as he did not consider his injuries serious.

REPORT [6]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — ROBBED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES

Location: The group was caught by the police in Slovenia, in a forest location near by the village Rupa and Susak. They were deported to Croatia and then to the Bosnian border (a forest location about 10 km away from Velika Kladuša), where they were physically attacked.

Victims

Number of victims: 3.

Interview was conducted with all group members.

Names: Abdula, Mehdi, Anas
Country of origin: Morocco
Age: 27–29 years old.

Minors in the group: No

Sex: Males

Date and time: The men were caught by the police in Slovenia 07/10/2018. They were deported back to Bosnia and attacked by the Bosnian border 09/10, around 2am.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: Yes

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT

Abdula, Mehdi and Anas were walking together from Velika Kladuša to Croatia, and further to Slovenia, where they wanted to apply for asylum in Ljubjana. On the fifth day, they were walking in a forest between the villages Susak and Rupa, where they were detected by two Slovenian police officers, one woman and one man, wearing police uniforms. Mehdi said that the police was treating them like they were criminals, giving them orders: “Stay! Sit! Move!”.

The men told the officers that they wanted to apply for asylum in Slovenia, but the police responded to them: “You are Muslim man, living in good country, here no asylum. You are not Catholic, you are Muslim, go back to your country. What are you doing here? You are not regular, this is the big problem here” (Anas).

Then, all of them were transported by a car to the police station in Lisac — Susak (Slovenia), where they were detained for one day. At the police station, they were provided a translator, an older man from Palestine, who refused to help them to ask for asylum procedure:

“He [translator] was just sitting there and did not speak. He just sat. He asked us for our names and country and where from we crossed the border and at what time. I asked him for asylum. He told me: “be silent”. When I asked him to translate that I needed asylum, he told me: “No asylum here. Not talk about this. No asylum in Slovenia, you go back to Bosnia” (Mehdi).

The following day, before the men were transported to Croatia, they were given a paper document to sign, which they did not understand because it was written in the Slovenian language. They were told by the police to sign this paper. Later they found out that they were made to sign the paper where it was written that they had to pay a fee 200 euros each for irregular entry to Slovenia:

“They gave me all these papers, but not in English, Arabic or French. I did not understand. I asked the policeman: Can I ask you, can you get me this paper in Arabic? He told me: “You can’t, just sign” (Mehdi).

The men were then transported to a police station close to the Croatian border, where they were detained for two days. Abdula said that they were detained in a small room,  a cell which was full of people. The police gave them only one meal during the whole time of their detention.

After two days, they were handed over to the Croatian border police, who transported them together with other 7 men to the Bosnian border for their deportation. Mehdi and Anas reported that they were driven only for few hours to some location, where they were detained inside of the car for ten hours. All of them had problems to breathe inside of the car because there was no ventilation, resulting in lack of oxygen. Around 2am, the car started moving and transported the men to an unmarked forest location at the Bosnian border where there was a river. It was around 10 km away from Velika Kladuša.

When the men arrived at the border, they were told to come out of the car, where policemen in black uniforms and masks and equipped with batons and guns were waiting for them. These police officers firstly broke the men’s phones and stole their money:

“There were policemen with masks. They said to us: “Five persons come out, who can speak English?” Me and my friend could speak English. I told him, I need my phone and my money. He gave me give plastic bag and said that this was my phone. I opened the plastic bag and my and the others’ phones were inside, broken. All person phone broken. And no money. One man had 1.300 euros stolen.” (Abdula).

Then, the police physically attacked all of them by batons and kicks, shouted at them to go back to Bosnia, and started shooting around them with their guns:

“They had masks, I don’t understand. They had guns and ta ta ta ta ta, for maybe just telling me to move. But where I could move? There was just a forest. They shot around me maybe twenty times. Maybe for making me move. But where I move? I did not see anything” (Abdula).

“They were acting like animal. They hit you, no respect, in the night, not able to see anything. But I am not a criminal, not a terrorist, just an immigrant. They twisted with my finger” (Mehdi).

All men then slept outside and then walked back to the camp in Velika Kladuša. Abdula told that the men from whom the police stole 1.300 euros was crying because he had no money left.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

Croatian police officers, wearing black uniforms and masks.

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Mehdi had swollen finger and scratches on his chest. Abdula and Anas had pain in back and legs.

REPORT [7]

Type of incident: PUSH-BACK — DENIED ACCESS TO THE ASYLUM PROCEDURES — DEPORTATION — VERBALLY THREATENED — ROBBED — PHYSICAL VIOLENCE — DAMAGE OF PHONES

Location: The group was caught in the inner Croatian land, in a forest road close to the village Brezovac. They were deported back to Bosnia close to the official border check-point in Velika Kladuša

Victims

Number of victims: 17 (12 men and one family with three children).

Interview was conducted in English firstly, with one male group member and later, with other four men.

Names: Saad, Abu, Mahmoud, Salah and Khalil

Country of origin: Palestine, Syria, Iraq

Age: The youngest adult was 19 years old and the oldest was 64 years old.

Minors in the group: Yes, three children involved — 9, 10 and 13 years old.

Sex: Males and females

Date and time: The group was caught by the Croatian police 11/10/2018, around 1am. They were attacked at the Croatian-Bosnian border and deported back to Bosnia the same day (11/10/2018), around 3am.

Expressed intention to seek asylum in the country: No

Documents signed: No

DESCRIPTION OF INDICENT

In the morning, Saad, 36 years old man from Palestine came close to the informal camp in Velika Kladuša, where the No Name Kitchen provides showers. Saad could barely walk and looked disoriented and tired. He sat down on a chair and explained that he was brutally attacked by the Croatian police at the Bosnian border the previous night, when him and other 16 persons were being deported back to Bosnia:

“They made a half circle in front of the car and one by one called out of the car and beating him. There were children and woman. They also beat the woman because she tried to hide her phone under her clothes and they found out, so they hit her by a baton. Her children and we could see it. Children were crying. But the police did not care. They kept telling me: “Fuck you, fuck your mother”, and after shouting at us, “Hajde, go back to Bosnia!”. It was horrible, they were deporting us around 3 am and for three or four hours after, we were searching for each other in a forest. They were beating us also an old man who was there with us and now has broken finger. … Do you have a cigarette? I have money [pulling ten marks out of his pocket], but I cannot go to the supermarket because I feel so dizzy and tired. I keep vomiting blood. I can’t eat anything as I vomit it out. I think I may have maybe internal bleeding from so many kicks into my body” (Saad).

Later in the afternoon, another four men who were, together with Saad, deported back to Bosnia, came. Mahmoud, 35 years old Syrian who could speak fluent English, explained what happened to him and his friends the previous night at the Croatian-Bosnian border. According to Mahmoud, him and 16 people, including one family with three children, walked from Sturlic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and crossed the border to Croatia, with the intention to apply for asylum in the EU. Mahmoud explained to me that all of them have difficult situations in their homelands, escaping war and violent governments, and for this reason they were searching for safety in Europe:

“We have very bad situation in our countries. Especially in my case, I have my brother in a prison in Palestine because of political reasons. My mother, they shot her on the way home in Syria. I have nowhere to go, only to Europe. His [Khalid] family is for three years lives in Austria. He tries to go with them, he is 64 years old and was kidnapped in Iraq. Abu’s family is in England, the same case. We don’t need European money, we need European safety” (Mahmoud).

Mahmoud then told me that when they were walking in Croatia, at around 1am at a forest road, they could hear voices of policemen and could see the light of torches in the dark. Soon after that, a police car with three officers arrived at the road where they were walking:

“The car was driving so fast that they almost crashed the family with kids who were on the road. We [the men] were hiding at first, but we came out because we did not want to cause any problems and did not want to leave the family there” (Mahmoud).

Few minutes later, other three police cars arrived with other ten officers who wore dark blue uniforms. Abu remembered the registration number of one of the cars: HR (CROATIAN FLAG) ZG 156. The police told all of them to put their bags in front of them and remove their phones, which the officers took from them. A woman, mother of three children, said to the police that she did not have a phone, but when the officers frisked her body, they found a phone hidden under her clothes. Mahmoud said that when the police discovered that she hid her phone, they physically attacked her by a baton in front of her children, who were crying:

“It was very hard for us because we saw our woman being beaten by the Croatian police and we could do nothing. They beat her so much by baton” (Mahmoud).

The police did not ask the people any questions, police apparently even did not know their names, and directly drove them to the Bosnian border for their deportation. The police told all 17 people to enter a small van, where was a lack of oxygen and people had problem to breathe inside during their transportation:

“They put us in a car. We are 17 persons with the children, they put us into very small car, van, into a boot. They were driving very fast, like on purpose. Salah and others started vomiting inside and children started crying. It was really awful. It was harder than the beating”(Mahmoud).

After 30 minutes of journey, the car stopped at the Bosnian border. The police opened the van and said to all people to come out either individually or in pairs. Then, the officers physically attacked them by batons and kicks while pushing them back to Bosnia, including Khalid, who is 64 years old:

“They told us to go one by one or two by two, and they beat us. When they opened the car, Salah was still vomiting, and they saw him vomiting and they started beating him. They hit him into his arm … when they told me to come out of the car, they asked me: “Where are you from?”, and I said to them: “I am from Syria”. He answered: “What is the matter with Syria?!” and started beating, beating, beating and after, he told me: “Go!”. Ok, so when I started walking I had pass all of them, 9 police men, while they were all attacking me by batons”(Mahmoud).

“They [the police] threw water on me and Salah, with bottle of the water on our heads and after, they beat us with sticks [batons]. They put my shoes on my chest and head and said very hard words to me. I fell, and they kept beating me although I was on the ground. I was rolling, and they kept beating me” (Abu).

All were trying to run away while they were being beaten, but in a remote forest location in the dark night, they struggled to find the way out. Abu told that they lost their bags when they were trying to escape. When the police finished beating all of them and they could hear them driving away from the point of their deportation, all started searching for each other and for their bags. Mahmoud told me that later, when they were walking from the place where they got deported, they found many broken phones and cut chargers on the way from the previous deportations of other people in the same place. Abu also said to me that they could hear scream of other people from far away who were also being deported and attacked by the police in the same night:

“When we found each other, they [police] brought other persons to the same point and we could hear their voices. We could hear screaming like a hell. We were very afraid because we could hear lots of crying from far away. The kids were very afraid. We could hear lots of crying noises” (Mahmoud).

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERPETRATORS

Abu remembered the registration number of the police car in which they were deported to the Bosnian border: HR (CROATIAN FLAG) ZG 156.

The men described the police officers in the following way:

“In total, there were 9 police officers. There was one big, 1,95 meters or something. One fat guy, he could be forty years old, he was the boss. There was also a young female police officer. They had metal sticks that they used for beating us”

INJURIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT

Khalil, a 64-years old man, has broken finger caused by the attack, push and kicks, by the police officers. Others have scratches and bruises around their body (back, arms, legs) caused by the physical attack by kicks and batons. Saad keeps vomiting blood and is currently waiting for a medical investigation in the hospital as to whether he has an internal injury caused by the kicks into his body.

No Name Kitchen, SOS Ljuta Krajina and Balkan Info Van

 

NOTE: All names have been changed with the respect to anonymity of those who have been interviewed.


via Are You Syrious (edited)

Featured image: Camp Trnovi, Velika Kladuša, credit: AYS