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“My son was scared and crying. I tried to console him by telling him it was all just a game.”

Date & Time 2024-05-28
Location From Croatia to Gradiska, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Reported by Collective Aid
Coordinates 45.148001498388, 17.248256849524
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age unknown
Group size 25
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, photos taken, personal information taken, no translator present
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 12
Violence used kicking
Police involved Apprehension: More than 10 Croatian police officers, 3 police vans Pushback: 2 Croatian police officers, one man and one woman, white Opel car (not a police car) and an unknown number of Bosnian police officers

The respondent is a 35-year-old Afghan woman. She reported being pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia on 28th May 2024 along with her two sons, aged 3 and 10. They were travelling in a transit group of at least 25 people. About half of the group were from Afghanistan (two families and several single men) and the rest of the group came from other countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The respondent said it was her first attempt at the ‘game’ (i.e. crossing the border to Croatia).

The respondent recounted having walked through a forest for a couple of days without enough food or water and said this was particularly challenging for the children. The group crossed the border from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to Croatia at approximately 10 or 11pm on 25th May around the area of Babina Greda in Croatia. They reached a small road and sat down by the side of it to rest. The respondent recalls seeing a bigger road in the distance. This is where the group was apprehended by at least 10 officers whom the respondent identified as the Croatian police based on their dark blue uniforms. However, according to the respondent a few of the officers wore plain clothes rather than uniforms. Some of the officers were wearing head torches. The respondent suspects that the officers had already seen the group before they arrived on the road.

The police spoke Croatian among themselves but English to the group. They screamed at the group to “stand up”, which made the children cry in fear. The officers kicked two of the men in the group. They also patted everyone down and searched all the bags.

At some point, one of the respondent’s sons said he heard a gunshot and started crying. The respondent did not hear it herself. She tried to console her son by telling him it was all “just a game”. It is unclear whether this happened before or after the group was apprehended.

More Croatian police officers arrived and the group was taken to a police station in three police vans. At the station, the police took photos of the respondent and noted down her personal information. No fingerprints were taken. The station had two rooms – one for families, women and children, and the other for adult men. The respondent and her two sons were detained at the station for one night.

The respondent said that the police released three 18-year-old men that had been part of the group but was not sure why they had done so. She said these three men were the only ones from the group who ended up being successful in the ‘game’.

After one night at the police station, the respondent and her children were taken to what the respondent called a ‘prison’. All the other people being detained in the prison were men. She and her children were locked in a room by themselves, which made the children scared. They were given water and food.

The respondent’s phone was taken away for the duration of the detention but returned to her before the pushback to BiH.

The respondent and her children were detained in the prison for two nights. They were then told that they would be taken back to BiH. She pleaded with the officers to not return them to BiH but to no avail.

Some of the other people being detained in the prison told her that she should consider herself lucky for being released, even if to BiH, given that some of the others had already been held in the prison for two months.

Before the respondent was taken back to BiH, she was made to change clothes at the prison.

She and her children were then driven in a white Opel car (not a police car) by what the respondent identified as two Croatian police officers, one man and one woman, to the border between Croatia and BiH, near the Bosnian town of Gradiska. The Croatian officers handed them over to what the respondent identified as the Bosnian police. The Bosnian police then handed them over to IOM and they were driven to Sarajevo.