On Saturday, the 2nd of April 2022, 32 Kurdish people from Turkey consisting of four families with 12 minors and 10 single men were pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina around the Bosnian village of Papari, Bihać. This report is the testimony of part of the group: two Kurdish families consisting of parents and seven children aged one to six years old.
On the midnight of the 2nd of April, around 12-12.30 am, the respondents started walking through the forest (“jungle”) in the Bosnian town of Bihać. The respondent reported that all of their phones were turned off and one man in the group guided the group and helped them cross the Croatian border. After they crossed the border through the shallows of a river, they reached Croatia. Since all phones were turned off and they followed their guide, they did not know where exactly they had crossed in the darkness. Then their leader separated one of the families from the rest. One of the respondents explained
“The guide just took one family to the targeted spot and the other families and young men were left on flat land where we were visible and we could easily see a police tower. But he was supposed to get us to a hill where we could hide. I guess he betrayed us and he was the one who called the police. We were just 10 minutes walking distance from the police tower.”
Around 2-3 am a white van, which the respondents identified as a police van, pulled over. The van was driven by one officer wearing a dark blue uniform with the word “policija” on the back. Thus, it is most likely that it was a Croatian police officer. After the latter made a phone call, 2 more white vans arrived with 2 male and 1 female officer, and a dog as well. Reportedly they asked the transit group whether they spoke English. Then they started to search the people and except for some food they took every belonging, including the phones. At that moment when one of the women who tried to protect her children started to cry with fear, the respondents described:
“We never thought that we would encounter such treatment on this land. Our children were so terrified. When one of the mothers cried, the woman police scared and threatened her by releasing the dog on the mother and shouted “Stop crying!”. Since we were family, they didn’t beat us, but we were afraid of the dog the most. All of the children cried a lot.”
After the search and the extortion of the belongings, the officers separated the single men and families and while putting the families into the vans, the respondents said:
“They put us in the car, at the back of the cars, there was a part like a cooler that looked like an icebox. They lefts us in the car as 15-20 people and they turned on the cold air conditioner of the car. We were already freezing in the jungle for hours, all of the children are sick now because of waiting in the cold car for hours, and my daughter couldn’t sleep because of high fever for two nights.”
According to the family members who were watching from the police van’s window, the officers lined up all of the ten single men and started beating them up with batons and punches. Two of the single men were laid to the ground and beaten up with kicks by the police.
After what the respondent described felt like hours of physical and psychological torture, at around 5 am the officers pushed back the families near the apprehension spot of the border, which is estimated the Bosnian village Papari. Roughly at the same time, they pushed back the single men at 15-20 km far from this spot. Just before the pushback, the respondents emphasized:
“There was a little stream of water near the border, police officers put all of the phones into the water so that they can break them, but they picked up all the good and expensive phones and didn’t give us back. Now we can not turn on the rest of the phones.”
After the pushback, the two groups met again, shouting to find each other in the silence of the night. Thanks to one phone that they managed to hide the respondents managed to locate themselves and walked from Bihać to another Bosnian town, Velika Kladuša.