A group of five young men at the time of taking the testimony residing in Šid, Serbia, collectively described a violent pushback at the hands of the Croatian police. One of them, a twenty-three-year-old Afghani man who spoke some English, translated the responses of the group.
As part of a group of fifteen men, they attempted to cross into Croatia either during the late evening of Tuesday, the 19th of April 2022, or the early morning of Wednesday, the 20th of April 2022. After crossing the border, they walked for an estimated ten minutes before encountering a group of approximately twenty-five police officers, whom the men believed to be Croatian. The law enforcement officials wore black uniforms without helmets or facial coverings and had guns holstered at their hips. In English, the officers told the group of men, “Don’t speak, don’t look at me” and forced them to stand with their eyes fixed on the ground. The translator stated that many members of his group did not speak English and so could not understand what they were being asked to do. Another interviewee demonstrated how the officers hit them with batons until they complied.
The men estimated that the police held them for thirty minutes before pushing them back to Serbia. During this time, the officers used their fists, elbows, knees, and feet to inflict damage on the men. The interviewees reported that one bald officer was particularly violent. Additionally, the officers damaged the men’s phones. They snapped their SIM cards in half and broke the charging ports by putting stick-like instruments into them and applying significant force.
All fifteen men tried to ask for asylum. Their request was ignored by the officers, who grabbed the men and physically put them into large black cars with Croatian license plates, as the respondents describe. The officers put two men into each vehicle; thus, there were at least seven cars present at the pushback site. Although all cars returned to Šid, each one arrived at a different location near the city. The translator said that the men were told, “Don’t come into Croatia. Go back to your country. Don’t come in cars.”
The group of interviewees all had bruises but were not comfortable having them photographed.