The push-back took place on October 17, 2020. The concerned group is an Afghan family with a total of twelve members: The grandparents in their fifties, two sets of parents aged 26- to 35- years old and several children: three babies/smaller kids, and two girls and one boy aged eight, nine and ten years old.
They began walking early in the morning, at approximately 6:00 am, from the place where they were staying north of Vrnograc. After walking for nearly twelve hours into Croatian territory, they encountered two police officers somewhere in the forest. The officers ordered them to stop, and phoned another officer who came soon after, around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., to pick the families up. The officer drove the Afghans near Velika Kladusa, more than 20 kilometers away from where they were staying before in Bosnia.
When they exited the van, eight Croatian police officers with the light blue uniform reading “Policije” on the back and one police dog were waiting for them in a forest clearing. The family members were ordered to sit down and the officers encircled them.
The younger boy explained how he and his family were forced to knee down onto the ground, looking downwards. Each time one of them looked up, a police officer either threatened them with a gun or slapped them in the face. The children and women were not slapped, but the men were.
“You cannot see his eye. If you see his eye, they hit you.”
Each of the family members were thoroughly searched for money, cell phones and other valuables. One of the mothers described feeling uncomfortable when the male officers touched her body to look for phones and money. She also described the anguish she felt when one of the officers stuck his hand deep into the pampers of her eleven-month-old baby boy to see if they were hiding a cellphone in there – which they were not.
While the officers only struck the adult males of the family with batons, some of the children and women also described experiencing violence from the police. The officers grabbed the small children very roughly and slapped the young boy on his back with their hands. They also hit one of the mothers on her face after she protested the violence against the children.
“The police officer hit my mother.”
One of the two mothers claimed that the group spent what felt like an hour with the police officers. When they were finally told to leave and go back to Bosnia, they were compelled to hand all their backpacks over to the officers who set them on fire. Additionally, all family members had to take off their shoelaces and hand them over to the policemen. Without shoelaces, food and water, the family had to walk 20 kilometers during the night until they reached the abandoned house from which they set out the day before.