In the last week news broke of Croatian police finally being caught red handed during illegal push-backs and violence against refugees.
Through our work on the ground in Sarajevo and through our friends from BasisBosnia we hear stories of collective expulsions on a daily basis. Here, International law is ignored and those seeking refuge are further traumatized and dehumanized.
We spoke with Celestine*, from Cameroon, to gather his testimony from an illegal push back that occurred end of October this year on the Bosnian-Croat border near the village of Kladusa. Here are excerpts from the Testimony:
'We continued to walk through the night, it must have been around 2 am, I put plastic bags on my hands and feet to keep warm, the cold was hurting me. Then, I saw a round sign with blue on it, it said: Croatia. I was jubilant, happy and so tired. We continued our trek north the three Algerians were up front. Then I heard two shots and yelling 'Police!'… it was the Croatian police. I had to hide in the bush, an old man of about 50 jumped in the bush too, my heart was beating so fast…
Some time later, I came out of the bush, everybody was sitting down, their bags in front of them. And so I too has had to sit. The policemen went through my bag first, he asked if I had any weapons: I declined. He confiscated my phone and my razor…They took everyone's phone's and put them in a plastic bag.
Then they yelled for us to get into a big van. One guy was screaming: 'Where is my wife, where is my wife?' They hit him and told him to get into the van. I don't know if he found her again.
We were lead into a Van, it was dark, we drove for about an hour. When the Van stopped we were at a forest path. There was more police, with dogs. They had a different uniform, it was blue. I asked the Croatian policemen who they are. He said: 'They are Bosnian police, you are in Bosnia!'
We were handed back our phones, they were smashed. The screens were broken and the phone's bent. They were of no use now. That road only lead us back to Bosnia through the night, freezing.'
*Name changed to ensure safety of interviewee.