On Wednesday, 1st of December, a group of 7 people from Pakistan was caught by two police officers in a forest close to D1 road, Croatia. The respondent who is 28 years old, recounts that the group had left Bihać, BiH the day before, at evening-time on the 30th of November, and that they had reached the top of a mountain south-west from Bihac at around midnight.
After spending the night in that spot, the group started their journey again along a path in the forest, moving towards highway D1. They walked for what the respondent felt were 4 hours, approaching the Croatian state road. They wanted to reach road E71 which they planned to walk by.
(They were walking approximately around this area)
The respondent recalled the path being harsh and covered in snow, making it even more challenging for the group to walk on it. In fact, he remembered that it took a lot of time to walk just a few kilometres because of the cold and the snow. But while they were walking in the forest, they did not realize they were leaving deep footsteps in the snow and that the group was visible from afar because there were no leaves in the woods during wintertime. The respondent affirms that they were just 300 meters away from the state road when two police officers appeared behind them and stopped the group.
He also remembers that they heard three gunshots before the officers reached them. He describes the two officers wearing blue uniforms, with dark blue jackets and pants. Both officers had pistols and were holding tree branches. The officers started to beat the members of the group with those branches. The respondent was hit on the back of his leg, but he remembers an group member, who was behind him, being beaten very badly in several parts of his body. The respondent claimed that one other person was kicked very badly and probably broke one or two ribs while falling downhill.
After apprehending and beating the group, at approximately 4 or 5 pm, the officers escorted them along the path for 5-10 minutes, reaching a group of five other officers who were waiting with a white car. The respondent describes the car as a regular white police car, with blue stripes in the center and ‘Policija’ written on it, but he doesn’t remember the vehicle’s brand or model. The officers were also described as ‘regular’ Croatian police, like the two officers that first found the group, and the respondent remembers that some of them were also carrying rifles.
The officers then called two other officers who arrived in a big blue van after a while. When the van arrived, the group was forced inside the trunk and driven back to the border. The respondent affirms that there were no windows in the van so that they could not look outside. They driven for what felt like 1.5 to 2 hours. There were no handles to hang on, and since the path was bumpy and rugged, they were bouncing around violently. They were driven to the border, followed by three officers in a white car. When they got out of the van, it was so dark that they could not see where they were exactly.
“There’s a limit and when it’s finished, they will leave you there and say just go”
The respondent does not recall the precise time of the pushback, but he does remember that they were left along the path of a small forest and that it was very dark.
The respondent affirms that they asked for asylum several times, but every time they asked, the officers would say “Go back, go back“. Talking about asylum requests, he adds: “We said [asked] so many times, but they would kick you and punch you, and said shut up, don’t talk“. He asserts that one of the group members was beaten a lot more than the others.
“They can beat anyone, but…bad luck…they chose this one”
The officers confiscated cellphones and power banks from the group members before abandoning them at the border with Bosnia. The group walked back to the city of Bihać which took about 4 hours of walking.