At 6 pm on the 18th of May a group consisting of 56 men, aged from 20 to 50, and four 16-year-olds, of different nationalities started their journey from Bosnia trying to Croatia. They began walking towards the mountains west of Bihać, Bosnia, where part of the border between Bosnia and Croatia lies. It took the group 9 hours to reach Croatia, crossing the border at 03:00 in the morning, 19th of May.
From there on, the group faced many weather-related difficulties, so their journey was significantly delayed. It took the group 2 and a half days to reach road number 1 in Croatia. As stated by the respondent:
“…That 2 days is very fast raining, and we cannot fast going. Go slow slow, little little, 5 kilometers we go, then we sit, 5 kilometers we go, then we sit. Very fast raining, no good to go…”
The respondent reported that, shortly after crossing this road, the group was surprised by a group of 9 uniformed people who were patrolling in the area. They pointed their flashlights towards the group and ordered them to stop. They asked them what they were doing in Croatia and told them to wait at the location. The respondent described how some of these officers took phones, chargers, and powerbanks of the group members, while a few others left to get two police vans.
The respondent and his group were forced to get into the back of the vans. There were 30 people in each van. Squeezed together the group was then driven to the border. The drive lasted around 2 hours. During those hours, the people were exposed to really low temperatures and ended up feeling dizzy because of what was described as a very reckless way of driving and the lack of any room to move.
The respondent described how, when they reached the Bosnian border – the duration of the drive suggests that the pushback point could have been in the area around Bihać -, the group was forced to take off their backpacks and all their clothes except their pants and shirts. The officers then proceeded to make a pile with the clothes, the jackets, and the backpacks and burnt everything in front of the respondent and his group. Afterwards, the officers sprayed pepper spray at the whole group and then proceeded to hit them with batons as they told them to go back to Bosnia and never try to cross the country again. The respondent claimed that the beating was so strong that, over a week later, 2 group members still have difficulties walking properly due to pain in their legs.