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You have asylum? The officer’s response was: No way!

Date & Time 2020-11-13
Location Pljesevica mountain, near Zavalje municipality
Reported by No Name Kitchen
Coordinates 44.76786136, 15.77964391
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age unknown
Group size 86
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 12
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), insulting, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings
Police involved 7 officers (male) in all green uniforms, wearing green ski masks; 5 officers (4 male, 1 female) in blue uniforms with “policija” written

The respondent is a 28-year-old Pakistani citizen. He was part of a 86 people group that crossed the border from Bosnia to Croatia. He is able to specify the number of people with precision as the group counted its members on a regular basis. The group consisted of male citizens from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh, and, according to the respondent, around 15 minors. They had been on their way for seven days when they came in touch with Croatian officers in the afternoon of Thursday, November 12th at around two or three o’clock.

The group had crossed the E65 road between Delnice and Rijeka in the north of Croatia. Near the D3 road and the Risnjak national park [45.416174, 14.631746], the group found a place to rest in the forest because three men suffered leg and foot injuries. The respondent does not recall seeing any houses around. The officers first discovered the three injured men. While the rest of the group was trying to run away, they soon realised that multiple officers surrounded the group from different sides. The respondent describes that he has seen seven officers, all male, in green clothes. They wore green ski masks that only left their eyes and mouth visible. According to the respondent, their uniforms had the inscription “policija” on them and all officers bore big guns and wooden sticks from the forest. The respondent calls them “commando”. As the officers shouted “stop”, “don’t run” and “I will shoot” multiple times, all group members came to a halt, frightened, and sat down.

While sitting in the grass, the respondent took out some of the bread he had brought. He said that an officer came up to him, slapped him in the face with his hand and shouted “Why do you eat?”. The group had to sit for what felt like 1.5 hours to the respondent. After that, the officers made them walk in line to reach the road, about 20 minutes away at a slow walking pace. The officers shouted in Croatian and hit several group members on their backs with the wooden sticks. They also took photos of the group with their smartphones.

When the group got to the roadside, the respondent recalls seeing six white “policija” vans. Aside from the officers in green clothes, he saw five other officers, including a woman. They wore dark blue police uniforms. The group was told to sit down and eat the food that each group member had brought with them in their backpacks. They were asked to give away their lighters and knives, the respondent stated to have done so. When he asked one of the officers for a cigarette, he shouted “shut up” at him. One group member asked: “You have camp? You have asylum?” The officer’s response was “No way!”

The officers in green uniforms left, while the ones in blue uniforms made more than 30 people enter each van. The respondent was in the last van. They drove for what felt like multiple hours. When they came out, it was dark, and the respondent could only see forest in the surrounding. There were more police vans stationed than there had been before, around 16 according to the respondent. They had brought more people, apparently other pushed-back groups. One by one, the group members had to take off their clothes and hand it to an officer: jackets, trousers if they wore multiple, backpacks and sleeping bags. The officers took photos of the belongings, after that they threw everything into a fire that was already burning when the respondent arrived.

For a second time, the group members were told to enter the vans. They drove for what felt like an hour to the respondent. When they were allowed to leave the car, two officers stood there and made them run towards the Bosnian border. It was a small dirt road. There was no physical violence involved at this point, but the officers shouted, “go, run!”. After running for ten minutes, they reached a wire fence that they considered to be the border to Bosnia. It took the respondent and the other group members about four hours to walk to Bihac. On their way, they passed a village with a Christian church which the respondent identifies as the church of Zavalje in the southwest of Bihac.