The pushback happened in the early morning hours (3 am) of the 18th of March 2022 from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The respondent is a 30 years old man from Burkina Faso. It was his third attempt to cross the Bosnian-Croatian border from the starting point of Velika Kladuša, BiH.
The transit group consisted of six young men, the youngest one being 20 years old. All members are aged between 20 and 30 years but the respondent could not tell their exact ages. Five of them were born in Burkina Faso and one of them in Côte d’Ivoire.
They tried to cross Croatia by foot, to then later cross the Croatian-Slovenian border. They explained that the so-called “full-jungle-game” requires the least financial resources, as the group is mostly just walking in the forest.
The respondent stated that they started walking on the evening of the 13th of March 2022. After six days of continuously walking through wooded areas, they passed Zagreb, Croatia. He reported that they had to cross a bigger road around midnight on the night of the 18th of March 2022. There the group was apprehended by six men in dark blue uniforms. The description of the uniforms matches the uniforms worn by the Croatian Police. The respondent was not able to point to the exact location of apprehension, because another member of the group with a better smartphone was in charge of guiding the group.
The respondent stated that they were patted down and had to hand over all their belongings. In addition, all members of the group were asked to take off their warm clothing (jackets, hats, shoes). The backpacks belonging to the group members were searched. He described how the police officers destroyed his phone: they put it on the ground and smashed the display with a baton. They stole another phone from the group, as well as their backpacks with food, sleeping bags, warm clothes, a power bank, and their money (30€) from the respondent. Reportedly, they also destroyed another power bank.
While waiting at the location of apprehension the respondent was able to recollect his broken phone:
The respondent was not able to specify the time they waited until a big white car arrived, whose description matches the description of the Croatian prisoner transport van. They were asked to get into the vehicle. Then they drove for what felt like three hours to the respondent. They reached the pushback location at about 3 am on the 18th of March. The respondent cannot remember the name of a nearby village. However, he knew that the pushback site was about 15 km away from Velika Kladuša and could point out the direction from which they arrived. A possible location would be Staro Selo Topusko, Croatia, since it’s a frequently used location for pushbacks and matches the direction and distance information given by the respondent. The group was asked to leave the vehicle. Without retrieving their shoes, backpacks, or other personal belongings, they were asked to walk in an indicated direction. After about three hours, the group reached Velika Kladuša, precisely the Miral camp, the local refugee camp. At the time of taking the testimony, the respondent was still suffering a lot from injuries to his feet (frozen toenail which fell off, a large skin lesion on the sole of his foot) due to walking back barefoot.