The respondent, a 25-year-old man from Afghanistan, was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia. He disclosed that he had already tried to ask for asylum in Croatia ten times but that he was pushed back by the police every time.
On January 22nd 2022, the respondent said he left Velika Kladuša at approximately 1 PM. He intended to reach the Zeljernicka Stanica Blatusa, in Croatia, where he wanted to take a bus to go to Zagreb. He explained that he tried to travel alone hoping that the police would be more likely to let a single person stay and ask for asylum than if he was with a whole group.
From Velika Kladuša, he reportedly walked for two hours and a half until he arrived in Poljana (Bosnia), an area close to the border. He then kept on walking for about three hours, crossing the Croatian border through the Glina river, and then walking across the forest until he arrived in Ponikvari, Croatia, approximately between 6 and 7 PM (45.2970833, 15.9251667).
There, he reportedly took shelter in a ruined house with the intent of resting for the night. However, about two hours later, two men, in dark blue uniforms arrived at the door. The respondent explained that having already been pushed back by the police a number of times, he decided to flee through the window. According to his statement, he started to run, losing his phone along the way, but the men in uniform quickly caught up with him and tackled him.
The respondent stated that he immediately told them “don’t beat me, I’m refugee, don’t beat me, I want to stay here, I want asylum”. He said that their answer was “just shut up” and that at no point did they talk to him or let him talk.
The two uniformed men then took him back to their car, reportedly a white van with the Croatian police logo, but kept on walking with him a bit further for around ten minutes. There, they thoroughly searched him, so much so that the respondent declared “they check me like I am guilty”. He explains that the two men took his power bank, cable, and torch, and asked for his phone which he declared he had lost. Those items were reportedly not given back to him, and, again, they told him to “just shut up and wait”.
About fifteen minutes later, another van arrived. The respondent described it as a white van without a police logo or windows in the back. Four masked men dressed in a dark uniforms stepped out of the van. The respondent’s description of the uniforms corresponds to the uniforms normally worn by the Croatian Intervention police. He explained that they did not let him talk and urged him to get in the van. Reportedly, they drove recklessly for around 40 minutes until they were at the border. Since the respondent lost his phone, he was not able to provide the exact location of the pushback point but he indicated that it was close to Bosanska Bojna (rough coordinates: 45.199817, 16.032605).
The respondent reported that when they stopped, the uniformed men pushed him out of the van and started beating him while telling him to “never come back, motherfucker”. One man reportedly punched him on the shoulder, another one used a wooden stick and, as he fell to the ground, the others used their feet to kick him. The respondent explained: “I did not say anything because they can follow me and do everything they want. They beat you and you just shut up”. He added: “here, you are not human, you are like a football, you feel very powerless like you are nothing”.
As soon as they let him go, the respondent started to run back to Bosnia fearing that they would keep on beating him. Having lost his phone, he walked back to Velika Kladuša following the traffic signs. According to him, the walk took him about five hours and he hence arrived at around 3 AM.
The respondent added that the next day he went through the same route and got back to the ruined house where he was apprehended in order to look for the phone he lost while trying to run away from the police. He reported that he actually found it in the snow, but that some people, described as a Croatian police patrol, then noticed him. He, therefore, started to run towards the Bosnian border, fearing that he would be beaten again.
The respondent added that he ran for about one hour through the woods while the group of people were following him on the road in their car. He eventually managed to cross the Glina river and thus got back to Bosnia without being caught.