The respondent, a 29-year-old man from Algeria, spoke about his fifth pushback from Croatia into Bosnia, which took place on January 17th 2022.
According to the respondent, on the morning of the 17th he, along with three other Algerian men (ages 23 to 33), crossed from Bosnia to Croatia by foot, near the town of Velika Kladuša. After walking to a town (which was asked to not be disclosed here), the four traveled by bus to Zagreb. Once in the city, the four boarded a second bus bound for Slovenia. They only made it about three kilometres before the bus was stopped by police. Two officers reportedly entered the bus, spoke with the driver, and then proceeded to take the four off, handcuffed them, and put them in the back of a large white van. They then drove them to a police station that the respondent did not know the exact location of, but noted that it was not far outside of the city.
Once at the station, the four men were photographed and their information was taken; names, ages, nationality and how they arrived in Croatia.
“Me I don’t lie, I tell him the truth, I tell him I have a family in France, please help me. But, aaaa…no. Deport.” He laughs. “Deport.”
The four were then detained in a room for what the respondent estimated was six hours. When they asked for food and water the guards simply closed the outer door to the detention area without saying a word.
“They keep us six hours in the room, they give us nothing, no water, no food. Nothing.”
When the police finally came back to speak with the respondent they asked him to sign a document that the respondent was unable to understand, and no translator was provided. When he asked the police what the paper was they told him it was transit papers to move through Europe, to France. Since the respondent spoke the most English out of his transit group, the police then had him translate what they were saying for the other three men.
“The police speak to me. I said what’s this, what’s this paper for signing? And he tell me ‘It’s for go Slovenia, Italia, France.‘ But he lie, it’s a paper for deport to Bosnia.”
After all four men had signed the “deportation papers”, having been falsely told they were transit papers for the E.U., they were loaded into a large white van with a blue stripe on the side.
The van drove for approximately two hours before stopping, at which point the men were let out of the back by police wearing all black, a description consistent with the uniforms worn by Croatia’s Intervention Police. Based on the length of the drive, paired with the fact that the first town the men reached in Bosnia was Vrnograč, it’s believed that the pushback took place somewhere outside of Mali Obljaj, in Sisak-Moslavina, Croatia.
Once out of the van the four Algerian men had their phones, power banks, and money taken from them by the officers dressed in all black and were told to walk across the border into Bosnia.
“Last time they sent me over (gestures for being beaten with fists and kicking), but this time, no…[but] problem when he takes your phone, in [forest] like this, you don’t know where’s here, here, here. You don’t know where is Kladusa, where is Vrnograc. It’s a problem.”
So now, hungry, thirsty, robbed, and lost, the four began their walk back (over five hours) in the direction they hoped was towards Velika Kladuša, to rest.