On Sunday, 18th April 2022, the respondent reports that he and seven other Pakistani men got pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina by Croatian authorities.
The group left Velika Kladuša and crossed the Croatian border close to Đurin Potok. They then spent the next six days in the forest, walking and sleeping while on the lookout for Croatian authorities. The respondent described those days as tiring and worrying.
“Tired too much. There is big mountains. And worried about nobody see us.”
During their journey, the group encountered many minefields, which they tried to avoid. However, from time to time they ended up in the middle of such a field. The group was able to leave the minefields behind without any harm. The respondent and a friend reported seeing a box full of open mines while they were in the forest.
After six days of continuous walking, the group of eight got captured by what the respondent describes as Croatian authorities while they tried to cross a road close to Tounj, Croatia. They described the authorities as rangers or army wearing a green uniform and batons which they did not use. Based on this description of the uniforms it is most likely that they got apprehended by the Specijalna Jednica Policija – Special Police Team (SJP). They also mentioned seeing a white car with the word Policija on it. The Pakistani men were caught at approximately 3 pm on 17th April 2022.
After the apprehension, the group was taken to a police detention center, where they spent the next four hours. The drive was about 30 minutes long. At the center, the officers that were present wore blue shirts and black trousers, so presumably, it was the Temelnja Policija – Croatian Regular Police. The men were denied food and access to the toilet while they were detained. During the four hours that the men spent at the center, the respondent repeatedly asked for sleeping bags or blankets since it was very cold in the room. However, these were denied to them as well.
The officers took the men’s phones and power banks. When they returned four of their phones, all of them were broken so that they could not be used anymore, the other three phones were taken by the police themselves.
The group was then taken in a big transporter to the border in the middle of the night. With them were five other people, making it a total of 13 people in the back of a transporter. There were no seats or lights. However, the respondent stated that the drive was not too bumpy and therefore he said it was not too bad. It took them two to three hours to reach the border from the police detention center. Once they reached the border the respondent and the other men were let out of the transporter one by one and pushed back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The officers did not say anything to the men.
Since it was the middle of the night and the group did not have any phones and thus no way of communication or orientation, they slept at the border. At 8 am they started walking alongside the road to get back to Velika Kladuša. They were dependent on other people to give them directions. When we met them, they were just taking a break at the side of the road and at the end of our conversation asked for directions. The respondent wanted to contact IOM to get transportation to the Miral camp, the local refugee camp in Velika Kladuša, however, they decided against it in the end. A couple of days later the respondent told us that they reached their destination at 3 pm, after walking for approximately seven hours from the pushback location. The respondent underlined that this constitutes another form of violence since the group was forced to walk several hours without orientation or communication to reach a point where they might find help and support.