On the 27th of November the respondent, a 22 years old young man from Afghanistan, was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia in the area around Šturlić, Una Sana Canton, with a group of 4 more people, all of whom were badly injured.
On the 26th of November, the transit group left Velika Kladuša at around 5 pm and walked towards the Croatian border for one hour, until they reached it, in a forested area. It was the second time the transit group, consisting of 5 young men from Afghanistan aged 18-22, attempted to cross the border in this area. After going through the crossing point, they walked for around five hours through the forest and the mountains, going up and down hills.
As the respondent states, 5 hours later, around 8 to 10 pm, when they reached the top of a mountain, they started to hear a loud noise, looked up and saw what he identifies as drone with a camera over their heads. As the respondent states, they then realized that they have been spotted and that some croatian authorities would appear at any moment.
“We had nowhere else to run, it was on the top of the mountain so we didn’t have anywhere to hide”
Reportedly, a few minutes after being spotted by the drone, 6 people wearing black and sky blue uniforms and weapons on their jackets approached the group. The respondents identifies these people as police officers. They approached them walking, for there were no roads around, only forest. The respondent further states that the officers had flags or badges on their jackets, although the he could not identify if they were Croatian flags.
From the moment they arrived, the respondent recalls that the officers started acting very violently towards the people on the move.
“They told us to sit down and then they started beating us continuously, they kicked us, they punched ”.
The respondent himself declares that he had difficulties breathing, for they were punching him on his chest. All of the members were beaten and hit, up to the point they could not look at the police officers, because they were scared.
“We were not able or allowed to look at the police officers, because if we did police started beating us more and more”
At this point, the police officers started beating them with the wooden branches they found around the forest. The respondent reports that they were kicked and hit with these wooden sticks for more than 2 hours, including on their heads, on their chests, and all over their bodies. In the meantime, the police officers also took all their belongings: mobile phones, chargers, power banks, money and even some clothes. “They left us with one trouser and one shirt”.
After these 2 hours, the transit group members saw the authorities calling someone, and they assumed they were calling for other police officers. Then, they were taken down to an off-road, being pushed, where they saw 7 more people, identified as police officers as well, approaching.
Reportedly, 5 of these officers were dressed in civil clothes, the rest were wearing the same black and blue uniforms as the previous ones. As for the vehicles, the respondent could count 8 of them, he describes them as 5 black police cars and 2 civil cars that looked like Jeeps. The respondent could see some flags on the vehicles, but cannot remember the exact color or shape, he also states that some of the vehicles had police lights on the top.
Reportedly, 10 minutes later a police van appeared, called by the respondent “the deport van“, a white van with a Croatian sticker on it and fenced windows. The respondent reports that the transit group was loeaded into the van, and driven for 5 minutes onto offroad, non paved road, 20 minutes onto a paved proper road and again 10 minutes onto another off-road. After a total of 40-50 minutes drive the vehicle stopped all of a sudden and the passengers were forced out. Reportedly, once they were out of the van, the police officers (5 of them) started kicking them again, pushing them and telling them to go back to Bosnia, from where they came. At this point, the transit group members started running towards the Bosnian territory, it was as the respondent remembers at around 5am the next morning.
As the respondent declares, their situation was really bad when coming back, as during the pushback all of them were injured: the respondent’s hand was broken and it hurt, another member of the group was bleeding from his mouth and coughing blood, the third member had his head injured because of being hit with branches, and the rest of the group was complaining of having pain in their chests and heads.
Although their personal belongings were not given back to them, one of the members of the group succeeded in hiding his phone under his shoe sole. So after walking for a while into the Bosnian territory they decided to get in touch with a support organization they met the day before and ask for help. They walked for 1.30 hours before meeting them, in a village (45°06’43.8″N; 15°47’28.7″E ), at around 12.00pm. This support group took them back to Kladuša and helped them.
“We didn’t ask for asylum. We were asked where we were from and we told them Afghanistan; everybody knows what the situation in our country is, everybody knows we need protection… We were too scared of the police, we thought that if we asked they would hit us harder. It was not easy to ask for anything, they were shouting all the time, and when we told them we were in pain they started beating us more, so we didn’t want to ask for anything else. What they are doing is against humanity, because if they treat us like this, how are they going to give us asylum?”
“We left Afghanistan because it was not safe anymore for us or our families, young people among all are in danger there. But we leave our country to save ourselves and we find this”.
“In my entire life I would have never thought of leaving my country, but the situation forced me to.Then I find out that here they are doing the same thing as the Talibans. Croatia is part of Europe, I will never accept this violence from Europe, it’s something against humanity”.
“I want to ask the higher authorities to put some attention and focus on this, on the borders, because all the migrants are suffering this violence, some people are dying because of it, some people are not able to move because police broke their legs, hands, heads… The job of the police is to take care of people, not to treat them as animals.”
At the moment of the interview and after sharing information with the medical group that attended the respondent and the rest of the group members, the group members have severe physical and psychological afflictions: broken bones, swollen muscles, bruises, breathing issues, apathy, flat affect, dehydration and low blood pressure, among them.