The respondent is a man from Afghanistan that was part of a chain pushback that commenced in Italy, continued through Slovenia and Croatia, and ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The respondent began his journey alongside a group of 13 people in the middle of April from the region of Lipa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After reportedly walking through Croatia and Slovenia for between 15 and 20 days, the transit group arrived in Trieste, Italy. They stayed in what the respondent called an “unofficial camp” in the area of Trieste for three days. In total, there were around 30 people in this “camp”.
On the morning of May 4th, the respondent recalled officers arriving to the camp wearing light blue uniforms, each armed with a fire arms in their belt. The officers separated four men, including the respondent, from the initial group of 13. It was not clear to the respondent why the officers specifically apprehended him and the other three men. The four men were from Afghanistan, aged between 20 and 25 years old.
The officers forced the respondent to give them his hiking shoes (which he never got back) leaving him only with his light shoes, he explained.
The respondent recalled saying “asyl” to the officers, but he was ignored. Instead, they instructed the group of four to get into the rear part of a white van that had neither seats nor windows. After what felt like an hour of driving, the respondent said the van stopped at the border crossing on the road E61 between Pesek, Italy and Kozina, Slovenia. (coordinates 45.62307938388053, 13.90269667130233).
The respondent then described what he believed to be Italian officers talking to five Slovenian officers wearing camouflage suits and dark-blue hats. The transit group were reportedly handed over to the Slovenian officers. They received food and water and where then put into another white van with no seats. After approximately four or five hours of driving, the van stopped on a big road in a forest and the group was let out of the van. The respondent estimated that it was between 12 and one in the afternoon. The Slovenian officers then pointed into the forest, and told the group to walk in the direction they were pointing until they reach the Croatian border and crossed over, recounted the respondent.
After that, the group reportedly walked for two or three hours into Croatia, where they were apprehended by seven more officers in blue uniforms. The officers had a white car and a white van, which the respondent identified both as being marked with the word “Policija”. The group was told to get into the white van and was then driven for two or three hours to a small station, referred to by the respondent as a police station. No settlement was visible from the station.
In the station, the respondent recalled, there was a total of 12 officers (including the seven who had apprehended the group) all in blue uniforms. One of the officers was a woman. When asked to describe how he was treated in the station, the respondent said,“In the police station, they beat us one by one.”
The respondent described how the officers first punched him in the face, and then hit his hands and his backside with a baton. The same kind of violence was used against the three other men in the transit group.
The respondent reported that they were kept in the station for three days. They had access to a toilet but had no bed or mattress to sleep on, so they were forced to sleep on the bare floor without blankets, explained the respondent. Throughout the entire detention period, they were denied food and water, which the respondent recalled not questioning out of fear that such a request would incite more violence.
The respondent described another incident of violence at the station. When one of the men from the transit group started to smoke a cigarette, an officer approached the respondent (who was the only group member who spoke English) and asked, “Why your friend smoke?” and punched the respondent in the face.
During their apprehension, it was reported that the men had to sign a paper that included their names, their fathers’ names and their countries of origin. The respondent said the paper was in Croatian, and no translator was present. The officers also took pictures of the men.
On the afternoon of the third day kept at the station (6th or 7th of May), the group was taken back to the white van that had been previously used to transport them to the station. Seven officers were reported to be present in the van while the transit group were being relocated. When asked to describe the driving conditions, the respondent said the driver braked and accelerated very often and suddenly, while also recalling the the air conditioning to be very cold. The drive reportedly took some 20 to 30 minutes.
The van then stopped on a small road in a forest and the transit group were made to get out of the vehicle. The respondent recalled a big road on one side of them, and a river on the other. The men were then reportedly forced to take off their shirts and shoes, leaving them only in their trousers. They were also made to hand over their phones, power banks and money (50 Euro), which the officers put into a plastic bag and kept, recalled the respondent.
Then the respondent described how the officers told the group to get down on the ground and began to hit them, one by one, with a baton on their backsides and their hands. The respondent noted that they were hit harder and longer than when they had been at the station, recalling the beatings to have lasted for almost 10 minutes. Then the officers told the men to cross the river, which the respondent recognised as the Korana which marks the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river-water was described by the respondent as reaching the chests of the men and being very cold. The officers were reportedly laughing while the men struggled to cross the river.
On the Bosnian side of the border, the respondent recalled walking for five minutes until they reached Sturlic, and then continuing to walk to Bihać. It took the transit group eight hours to reach Bihać, arriving on the night of May 8th.