On the morning of 27th January 2022, a group of six people were pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The group consisted of six males from Afghanistan including two minors. The ages of the group were 16, 17, 23, 25, 26, and 27.
The respondent is 26 years old and stated that, on January 26th, the group was waiting in a wooded area to be picked up by a car, when they were apprehended by five people wearing black uniforms. The uniforms of these people had black badges but the respondent could not see much detail, as the whole group was ordered to sit down. The respondent described how the group crouched down with their arms over their heads. A uniformed man kicked the respondent in the lower leg, not leaving any visible injury but “it’s still feeling pain“, and another group member was reportedly kicked in the chest. From the description given, the persons in uniform were likely the intervention unit of the Croatian police. The respondent thinks that the officers found the group because their footprints were visible in the snow.
After the group was apprehended, they reportedly remained in the same location for what felt like several hours to the respondent. An additional man described as ‘normal border police’ waited on the road, allegedly with the intention of catching the car that the group was waiting for. When the car did not arrive, the group was driven to a police station.
At what was described by the respondent as a police station, each group member reportedly gave personal details, the name of each person was written on a sign, which each person then held in front of them as a photo was taken. Phones were searched before being confiscated. The respondent explains that the personal belongings of the group (phones, power banks, bags) were gathered into a big plastic bag and never returned to them. No fingerprints were taken, but they were required to sign a paper. The respondent did not know which language the paper was in, it could have been English or Croatian. According to the interviewee, no translator was provided or explanation was given. The respondent also said that if people did not sign the paper, then a man in uniform would sign it instead.
The group was in this building for an estimated one or two hours during which time a female in uniform used ‘bad words’ against them. The respondent recalled that the group was then taken into a ‘deport car’, possibly a police van known to be used by the Croatian authorities, and driven for approximately four or five hours. The driving was described as being erratic, fast and with sudden braking, which caused the group members to collide with each other. They reached the green border between Croatia and Bosnia at 2 or 3 AM. The respondent reported that the group member who had been kicked in the chest was feeling quite unwell, “his strength was finished”. The respondent described that his heart was beating rapidly and that two of the group had to support him as he walked. The group walked for approximately four hours from the border back to Bihac, arriving at about 6 AM.