The respondent is a 26-year-old man from the Gambia. He was travelling together with another man from the Gambia, two 20-year-olds from Afghanistan and three people from Pakistan who were older than 30 years
The respondent explained that the transit group arrived in Bihać bus at approximately 4.30 PM on January 5th. They left Bihać, crossed into Croatia and walked in the forest.
After three days of walking and four nights of sleeping in the forest, the respondent reported that on January 9th, they were apprehended by Croatian authorities. When asked for the location of the apprehension, the respondent explained that he had saved it on his phone, but that the authorities seized it and therefore he could only remember that they were in Croatia close to a highway. He recalled that the apprehension happened at approximately 8.30 AM, quite soon after they had woken up before they started walking again.
The respondent described that “we heard open fire two times. Pum! Pum! But we didn‘t see anyone. […] They said police.”
According to the respondent, six male and two female officers in blue uniforms with “policija” written on the back of their jackets appeared. The description of the uniforms corresponds to the uniforms worn by regular Croatian police. The respondent further explained that the officers arrived in one patrol car and one police van and asked the transit group for their valuables and shoes.
„They came and said stop. So we stayed there. Then they took our phones in one place and our money in one place. They put it in different places, you know.“
After what the respondent estimated to be 45 minutes, a further two officers wearing the same uniforms arrived in a large dark van. The transit group was told to enter from the back of the van. On two opposite sides, there were benches with space for about three persons. The respondent described that an officer closed the door and then turned the air conditioner to a freezing temperature. As temperatures outside were already cold, the transit group was freezing with the respondent adding that they felt tired and sick.
„It was cold outside already. It was so cold. My friend has (pointing at his throat and chest) […] some sickness. He was very tired there.“
The respondent recalled they waited in the cold van, but could not ascertain for how long, before being driven back to the Croatian border. He said the journey felt like three to four hours. He also stated that during the journey, they were not allowed to keep their belongings and were left barefoot.
They arrived at the pushback site at approximately 1.00 pm. The respondent recalled that there were two officers who had driven the van and another officer who had arrived in a patrol car. The transit group exited the van and the three officers who were wearing the same blue uniforms reportedly handed plastic bags with the group’s belongings back to them. The respondent further explained that the transit group were ordered to line up and start walking on the road, which lead back over the border to Bosnia. He stated that he discovered another three policemen approximately 200 metres ahead on the street, which the transit group needed to pass. These officers were described as wearing black uniforms with black ski masks covering their faces. The respondent further added that they had no signs on their uniforms and carried batons and firearms with them. From this description, it is possible that the uniformed men were members of the Croatian Intervention police. Previous testimonies mention that suspected Croatian Intervention police officers removed the patches and emblems of their uniforms.
“They were waiting there. […] From my emotions I know that they want to beat us. We had to go there. “
According to the respondent, the black-uniformed officers first discussed something in Croatian and then took the transit group’s plastic bags, searched for money and phones, and did not return anything to the transit group.
“Our shoes was there, our jackets, everything, our money. […]450 Euro.”
The respondent described how two of the officers chased the transit group and struck two group members with a baton in the back.
„They say, go, go. you guys don’t have passports why are you coming, never come here again[…] saying negative words”
After crossing the border, the transit group reportedly walked back to Bihac, south of the pushback site. It is probable therefore that the pushback took place in the region around Željava, Croatia. The group arrived in Bihac at approximately 5.30 PM with the respondent estimating that the walk took roughly three hours.
„And then we walk on our feet. That was crazy.“