On the 23rd of October, twelve people left Bihać and started walking in the mountains. Five of them were from Afghanistan, while seven were from Pakistan, all aged from 17-27. After two days of walking in the forest or as they call it “jungle,” three policemen in blue uniforms apprehended the group. It was around 7 p.m., and the respondent affirms they were near road number D1 in Croatia.
In order to stop the group, the police ran after them and threatened them with their guns. Afterward, they started beating them mainly with kicks. The respondent reports that one policeman (“the boss”) broke a branch from a tree and then used it against a guy from the group, causing severe injuries near his ear (as the picture demonstrates). Moreover, the officers broke (or seriously injured, the diagnosis is not available) another guy’s shoulder.
“‘How many people in the group?’ All people silent. Then they told ‘who speak English?’ I told him ‘yes sir I speak English’, he told me ‘stand up!’, he told him ‘how many people are you?’ I told him ‘only twelve people’. We are all punished then, only me not punished. All punished.”
Afterward, the police stole the people’s belongings: tobacco, cigarettes, mobiles, power banks, promising to give them back once at the border.
“He told me ‘this is your stuff, we again give you to the border’, but we not given.”
The officers then forced the people to enter a small van and drove them to a police station. In the vehicle, there was “no light, no windows, no air.” And reportedly the officers were driving recklessly. The group waited for one hour in the police station, but no personal details or pictures were taken. However, the respondent affirms that three photos were taken in the forest after the apprehension. Also, he claims that he had no idea of the reason for the detention. Everyone was silent; everyone was scared to talk.
After one hour or so, two other police officers in blue colors (same uniforms as the ones who caught the group in the jungle) drove the group at the border in a similar van as before. The respondent could not tell how long they traveled since they were deprived of all their belongings including phones and watches.
When the group arrived at the border, two officers wearing face masks and gloves were already there, next to a container. There was also one dog. The officers rechecked the group and took their money, sleeping bags, and others belonging to some of them.
Suddenly, the officers released the dog, and the people started running in the direction of Bosnia, into the jungle. At that point, it was around one in the night, and the group could not see anything. They had to run to cross the border, threatened by the presence of the dog.
“I don’t look (see) anything; it’s very black, very dark. One side is the road; one side is very dangerous. It’s jungle.”
The respondent was able to point at the exact location of the pushback on the map: forty-two km away from Bihac, near the small village of Kalati.
The group walked in the forest for a while until they met another group making another journey. The respondent decided to join them to try the following day again. At that point, he was without shoes.
On the morning of the 27th of October, the respondent and other fourteen people started walking through the forest, not far from the Kalati village. Six of them were from Kurdistan, three from Pakistan (Punjabi), and six from Afghanistan. This time they were all aged from 15-22. They walked for two days until they heard one gunshot and a man shouting “stop, stop!” around five o’clock in the morning. They had just crossed road number 218 in Croatia.
The respondent affirms that the officer didn’t shoot in the air but at human height.
“I told him ‘sir, you the pistols like that (on the air)’. They say ‘stop, stop, stop!’. I tell ‘don’t worry sir, I sit here, but the position of the pistol (must be pointing in the air)’”
The group stopped, and one officer wearing a blue uniform intercepted them. He immediately called for other two officers, who came in a few minutes with a small van. As he had previously been pushed back, the respondent did not have shoes or sleeping bags – but he still had some money. The officers checked the people and stole their belongings.
“I tell ‘please sir, you take my mobile, headphone, sleeping bags, shoes’. I tell him ‘sir, please sir, I really need this money, sixty euros’”.
The respondent also tried to ask for asylum, but they didn’t listen to him.
“I tell him ‘please sir, I am really…I have a really bad situation, this is my sixth time you catch me, so please this time give me one chance, give me stay in Zagreb’. He is laughing for me, he told me ‘this is not my job, my job is only to stop you’. I tell him ‘sir, you don’t help us, you only forward my message to the senior, another person’.”
“I told him ‘I am not a terrorist. I know I am illegal(ly) cross your border in your country, but I don’t like your country, I am not a terrorist, I don’t touch your everything, your village, your people, I am only going in your land to cross the border again, go to Italia, France, Europe’. He told me ‘this is not my job’. Again I told him ‘please, kindly forward my message to another person, to your senior’. He was laughing for me. He told me ‘you come again, again and again, thirty times’. I tell him ‘sir, I die the thirty time. This is my six time, I don’t have any more energy.’”
When the van with the two officers arrived, they drove the people to a police station, and again no personal information or pictures were taken. They stayed there for a while, and then the same officers brought the group to the border.
There, there were six or seven officers. Half of them were wearing face masks. Four vans were also present: what the respondent calls “ambulance van,” two “deport vans,” and one smaller van—all of them in white with the “Policija.” Also, in that location, the respondent saw a container.
Again, after the group had to form two lines, the police dog was released, and the people started running in the darkness. According to the respondent’s reconstruction of the events, it was about eight pm on the 29th of October.
“One have a dog. He told me ‘make two lines!’ The police tell ‘don’t come to this side again’. They open the dog, and people are running and running…”
Afterward, some people of the group managed to take a taxi to go back to Bihac.