On Sunday, the 5th of March, a group of 5 people from Cuba was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The group consisted of 4 men and 1 woman (the respondent);they were all aged between 25 and 40 years old.
The group left from the Bosnian city of Banja Luka on the 4th of March. At the bus station, they took a taxi which drove them near the border at around 8pm. From this point, the respondent reported that they walked 63 km. As the respondent explained, the group was already in Croatian territory when they heard some people were shouting at them. Before they could notice, someone shone a very strong light on them. The respondent described that the light came from a binocular that a man was wearing and that was pointing at them from some meters away. The group tried to hide quickly behind some bushes.
Reportedly, they hid there for 15 minutes, and then tried to take another path to get away from this people, but it was too late. Straight after, 8 men wearing dark blue uniforms arrived, chasing the members of the transit group, and apprehended 3 of them.
Seeing the people being apprehended, a member of the group stopped running to check on them. At that point, the respondent stated that one of the people in uniforms approached him and tried to kick him, but he managed to dodge the kick. The officers were shouting at the respondent, saying “Hajde, hajde!” (which means “come on, come on!”), but she could not walk faster because of the snow. According to her testimony, the respondent unintentionally touched one of the officers (who she described as white, tall, pretty young and with blue eyes) while passing next to him, and he insulted her in Bosnian.
When the whole transit group was apprehended, the respondent recalled that the men of the group were forced to kneel. She further explained that two members of the group were punched in the face by the officers. At that point, she sat on the ground. They were all asked to put their belongings in front of them, while the officers kept on screaming “Hajde, hajde!”. They took their phones, asked for the passwords, and wrote them down on a paper. Then, the members of the transit group were body checked.
The respondent explained that they had to give away their fanny packs, and that the officers took their wallets as well, from where they kept all the euros they had and left the Serbian dinars, which did not seem to interest them. They were forced to give away all their belongings, including their passports. Reportedly, the officers also asked one of the members of the group to give them the jacket he was wearing, and then threw it on the floor and started stepping on it and cleaning their shoes on it.
The respondent stated that after this, the group had to wait for 15 minutes, until a van came and the officers loaded them on it. They were driven to a path that the respondent recognised, as they had passed there earlier the same day. They were left there, in a big esplanade covered by snow. The respondent stated that this place was still in Croatian territory, but next to the Bosnian border, and that the officers pointed in the direction of Bosnia and Herzegovina and told them “Bosnia is there, go!”.
She further explained that she fell on the ground, as it was difficult for her to walk because of the snow, to which the officers reacted screaming “Hajde!” and shooting their guns (the respondent could not tell if they were pointing their weapons at them or in the air, as she was running away as fast as she could). Luckily, no one was injured by the shooting.
The group got away from the men who had apprehended them approximately around 3am in the night of the 5th of March. They started walking trying to reach Bosnia, but they were not able to see much because of the mist, and they did not have a phone anymore to check the map, so they got lost. The respondent explained that they were so tired that they slept for some hours in the snow. She stated that they all slept together laying on top of the biggest coat they had, trying to keep warm and not die because of hypothermia.
When dawn broke, they started to walk again, but they were very disoriented, and arrived in Zagreb after walking for some hours.
The group made a pause to sleep in an abandoned house they found near to the city. The respondent explained that some neighbours then called the authorities, and a car with 3 men wearing dark blue uniforms (the same as the officers previously encountered) arrived. The men driving it stopped the group and bodychecked them again. The respondent tried to talk to one of the men, and explain what had happened to them with the officers some hours before. The man told her to be silent, while putting his finger in front of her lips. A few minutes later, two more men arrived, driving a van (they were also wearing dark blue uniforms). The group was forced to get into the van.
Again, they drove them to a location in Croatia near to the border Bosnian border, and ordered them to cross the border back into Bosnia: this also happened during the same day- the 5th of March. One of the members of the group said that he could not walk anymore, as his feet were burned and injured because of the snow and all the kilometres they had to walk.
The respondent explained that the officer threatened him with a baton, so he had no other choice than keep walking. They got away from the authorities and crossed the border, walking.
They walked all the way back until Banja Luka, and then from Banja Luka to Bihac, getting there on the 7th of March. The respondent said that she really does not know how they managed to do this, as they did not eat during 3 days or take a shower during this time, and they were very thirsty and exhausted when they arrived to Bihac.