The respondents of this testimony are two women and a man from Cuba. The women are a couple and have fled their country together while the man is a companion that they met along the way. The three of them left Cuba five months ago, flying to Russia – where they met – and from there to Serbia because those are countries where they can get a visa. From Serbia they walked to Bosnia where they arrived on the 30th of December 2021. They declared that in one month, they tried to cross the Croatian border in search for asylum four times, but were pushed back by the police every time.
According to their testimony, January 31st 2022, the respondents and four other people from Afghanistan that they met in Velika Kladusa, a border city where they recently found refuge, decided to try their luck starting their trip in the early morning. They explained that they left Velika Kladusa at 4 am, quickly crossed the border and then walked in the Croatian forest for more than four hours. They reported that around 8.30 am, when they were getting close to Cetingrad, they saw a young man holding a gun, running towards them. He reportedly pointed the gun in their direction and told them to stop moving so, terrified, they immediately stopped and stood still. A few seconds later, another older man with binoculars arrived. Both men were dressed in dark blue uniforms and had “policija” written on the back of their uniforms.
The respondents reported that the 2 men did not let them talk, telling them to “shut up”, and that they contacted other people with a walkie-talkie. A few minutes later, two other men wearing the same uniform allegedly arrived in a white van with the Croatian police logo on it. The respondents stated that those two men actually recognized them from a previous push-back and said “Cuba!” when they saw them. They explained that they then tried to ask for asylum in Spanish and English, saying “somos refugiados, need asylum”, but the men in uniform simply ignored them and urged them to get in the van. One of the respondents added that she told the uniformed men that she had problems with her feet and could not walk anymore, but a man in uniform simply answered that he was a policeman, not a doctor.
The respondents stated that they drove for about fifteen to twenty minutes, and added that the drive was very difficult. They explained that the van had no windows in the back so they were in the dark, and that the air conditioner was turned to cold temperatures so that it was freezing inside. Moreover, there were no real seats to sit and take grip while the driver reportedly purposefully drove recklessly, braking brusquely so they would all fall on each other, hurt themselves, and feel the need to vomit.
They reported that the van stopped somewhere between Siljkovaca and Đurin Potok (approximate coordinates: 45.126328, 15.780099) at around 9 am. The uniformed men took them out of the van, told them to cross the border and, laughing at them, they said “Go Italia”. The respondents added that they forced them to walk through a muddy and wet passage even though they could have gotten around it. That way, all of them – including children – had to walk back to Velika Kladusa with their feet and legs soaked. They declared the walk back took them between three to four hours.
The respondents summarized their encounter and interaction with those men in uniform saying that “nos tratan como si fueramos perros” [they treat us as if we were dogs].