Refugee Says Police Called Migrants 'Animals,' Stole Money During Attempted EU Crossing

One Afghani refugee is speaking out about the treatment of migrants at the Croatian-Bosnian border.

In an interview with the Associated Press, migrant and former futsal referee Ibrahim Rasool described the mistreatment of fellow migrants by the Croatian police and the European Union. He described how pleas for safety from pregnant women and families were ignored, resulting in multiple refugees being sent to Bosnia. He also provided a video showcasing officers insulting and degrading migrants, calling them "animals" and "dirty people."

"Police didn't (pay) attention to kids, to woman pregnant, (to) women, nobody," said Rasool. "They show (us) gun, (say) 'Don't move. Stop. We are police.'"

Rasool had previously been a futsal referee in Afghanistan but fled the country as tensions within the country's football association worsened. While in Bosnia, he played soccer with children and other adults. In the meantime, he has tried crossing into Croatia multiple times in search of a better life.

"I want to continue my job, I want to be back to my normal life," he told the Associated Press. "It doesn't matter which country."

However, he has encountered violence and humiliation at the Croatian border. Rasool said that all his money was stolen by border police and was laughed at before being deported.

"They stole from refugees," he said. "They think we are animals, not human."

Rasool condemned both the treatment of fellow refugees and the EU's supposed acceptance of Croatia's handling of refugees. He said that if European nations continue to stay silent on the abuses being faced, they would be no better than the Taliban.

Croatian police have not responded to requests for comment. However, they have been accused multiple times of abusing migrants.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ibrahim Rasool
Ibrahim Rasool, Afghan refugee, formerly a FIFA-licensed futsal referee controls the ball at a makeshift camp housing migrants, in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia on November 13, 2021. Rasool says he loved his job as a futsal referee because of sportsmanship and fair play, but the 33-year-old man from Afghanistan says there is nothing fair about the way the European Union treats people seeking refuge from violence and war. AP Photo/Edvin Zulic

The video provided by Rasool showed people crouched inside a fenced, moving van that included women and small children. In the forest video, men are carrying an apparently pregnant woman in a blanket. Neither video could be independently verified.

The European Court of Human Rights last week ruled against Croatia in a 2017 pushback case after which a 6-year-old Afghan girl was killed by a train.

Although Croatian authorities last month were forced to suspend three special police officers who were filmed hitting migrants with batons while forcing them out of Croatia, they have rejected accusations of systematic, widespread abuse of migrants in the border zone.

Rasool and his group have been stuck in a makeshift camp near the Bosnian border town of Velika Kladusa. The camp has no facilities other than improvised tents but Rasool said it was still better than official migrant camps "because we are free."

Upon leaving Afghanistan four years ago, Rasool first went to Iran, then to Turkey and Greece. He came to Bosnia two months ago through Albania and Montenegro after staying in Greece for more than three years. Despite being turned back repeatedly at the Croatian border, Rasool and his fellow migrants will try again to cross as soon as they can.

Once they reach Croatia, migrants seek to go to Italy or Slovenia before moving on toward Western Europe's wealthiest countries. Several thousand people remain stuck throughout the Balkans looking for a chance to reach the EU.

"We cannot stay in Bosnia because the weather is going (to be) very cold" soon, said Rasool.

Rasool provided the AP with copies of his FIFA-approved referee certificates and photos from some of the hundreds of futsal matches he handled in Afghanistan.

Futsal is a form of soccer played on a much smaller, hard court and mainly indoors.

While in Greece, Rasool coached refugee teams, he said.

Rasool said his hopes of a brighter future in the West have been shaken badly by the treatment at the Croatian border.

Bosnia Border Camp
Afghan people are seen at an illegal improvised camp outside the northern Bosnian border town of Velika Kladusa on October 15, 2021. Some 300 illegal migrants from Asia, mostly Afghan people, some traveling with entire families, set up an illegal camp in the outskirts of Velika Kladusa to be closer to Bosnia-Croatia border in hope to cross into the European Union. Photo by Elvis Barukcic/AFP via Getty Images