According to the respondent, on Wednesday, December the 15th, a group of 24 people-on-the-move from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey was pushed back by the Croatian police at the border with Bosnia Herzegovina, close to road R408, nearby the village of Martin Brod, in the municipality of Bihać (BiH).
The group had reportedly already been caught by Croatian Border Police 5 days before, on Friday, December the 10th. The respondent, affirms that it was 4 pm. Twenty-four people were walking along a road close to the Bosnian border, nearby the district of Bihać, when one police car and one civilian car appeared (the respondent states he thought that the civilian vehicle could be an undercover officer who was wearing civilian clothes, or maybe just a passerby who saw the group and called the police). Four police officers got out of the cars, stopped the group and called for reinforcements. After a while, two police vans arrived, and the group was split in two and forced to get into the vehicles.
The respondent stated that the vans had no windows, so they could not see where they were being brought to, but recollects having seen some road signs indicating the presence of a river. He described the van as a regular white police wagon, with no handles or fences inside, just some bench-like seats and nothing else where they could grab on.
The respondent stated that the officers took their phones, power banks, and cables and put everything in separate plastic bags. Afterwards, they labelled the bags with the names of the group members and reportedly took their money.
They drove for what the respondent described as one and a half hours, and at around 5.30-6 pm, they arrived at a police station. There, they were then let out of the van one by one. The respondent reported that the officers took pictures of their faces, wrote down their names and country of origin, and made them sign some papers.
“There were no translators at the station, and the documents were written in Croatian and English. Few people could understand them.”
According to the respondent, one group member, a man from Afghanistan, tried to help the group translate what was in the papers, but still, they were constantly told to hurry up and not take too much time to read the documents. The respondent stated: “You can’t say anything. Otherwise, if you ask something, they will beat you”. They were not allowed to talk or ask questions, so they do not know what they signed. The respondent also remembers that the station had one big hall at the entrance and three rooms like cells on the ground floor, but not more because it was already dark, and he stayed inside the building just for the time of the paperwork.
It was reported that, once they filled out the documents, they were forced into the van again, and they spent the whole night closed in there. The morning after, around 10 am, the respondent describes that they were brought to a kind of medical station for a Covid-19 test. Once they got tested, they were brought back again and reportedly left inside the van the whole day -from 11 am to 8 pm. Then, in the evening, two other vans came. The respondent stated that twelve people were forced in one vehicle and twelve in the other one. They finally left the police station and travelled for what was described as approximately three hours. The respondent reported that they eventually reached another police station, and the story repeated: they were let out one by one, took off their clothes and shoes, and given new stuff to wear. Their property was put in different plastic bags, and the group was brought into four separate rooms, six persons per cell. There were beds inside and some narrow space behind the door, like a corridor. Once they settled, someone gave them three papers to sign and fill out with personal details such as weight, height, and age.
The respondent states that they spent circa 3-4 days at the police station, inside their cells. The police never expressed their intentions. According to the respondent, they were joking and telling the group, “We are bringing you to Germany, to Italy”. They were receiving food three times per day in a dining room, but every time they were obliged to eat in a hurry, and the policemen who were there would reportedly tell them, “Eat fast, there are also other families or people who are coming after you”.
The respondent describes an event that took place on the last day of their detention. They were having lunch, and a guy who was taking his time to eat was reportedly punched in his face and pepper-sprayed. After this violent episode, the people working in the station put them again into two vans, and the first one left the station around noon. When asked where the police station could be located, the respondent says it was pretty far because it took almost three hours to reach the Bosnian border. It was nearly dark when they released the respondent with his group, but the exact time and position of the pushback is unclear because the respondent did not have his phone.
The respondent stated that, when the group was released, they received their clothes and phones back, but not their power banks and chargers. They did not receive a copy of all the documents they had signed either. Once they got out of the van, border police just told them “Go!”. The group then headed to Bihać (BiH) and arrived at the Bosnian city after 3 or 4 hours of walking.
The respondent explains that they tried to ask for asylum but did not dare repeat the question because they were too scared to be beaten up.
The police said, “We will let you go to Germany; there’s no asylum in Croatia”.
The respondent recalls having seen four officers at the time of the arrest on December the 10th and describes them as wearing kind of blue uniforms like those of Croatian border police. They were with two cars, one civilian and one white with blue policija written on it.
At the police stations, he remembers having seen police officers in light blue shirt uniforms, similar to the ones of regular police. And at the moment of the pushback, there were three police officers who were wearing very dark uniforms, with scarves covering half of their faces. They were also reportedly holding firearms, a torch and a stick, and one of them had a dog with the muzzle, which was released for a while just to scare the people. The respondent thinks they could be members of the Interventna Jednica Policija (IJP).
The place where the group was pushed back should be the pinned-one, along road R408, but the respondent is not entirely sure about it because he did not check on the maps at the moment of the fact.