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From "truck game" to forced detention - 'It was terrible. We couldn't breathe'

Date & Time 2021-04-09
Location Highway E65, Croatia, in the proximity of the Slovenian border
Reported by Anonymous
Coordinates 45.3752892, 15.01701267
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 3 - 45
Group size 120
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, India
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, photos taken, personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved about 10
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, frisking
Police involved 4 Croatian border officers (with Croatian flag sewed on their sleeves), 1 van. About 10 Croatian policemen in the police station

The respondent is a 21-year-old Afghan man who left Bihać, in Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 1, 2021, to go on “game”. From Bihac, he walked for three days together with a group of 120 people and crossed the Croatian-Bosnian border in the area of the Plješivica mountains.

Once he and his group reached highway A1 close to Plitviče lakes, they all boarded a truck. This was on the evening of Saturday, September 4. The respondent reports that his transit group mostly consisted of Pakistani males, but there were also three Afghan males and three Indian males; there were also 3 unaccompanied minors (14-15 years old) and 3 couples from Sudan (3 men and 3 women). According to the respondent, all 120 boarded the back of this truck.

The truck drove by highway A1 in Croatia – though the respondent assumes that the truck driver took some secondary roads to avoid being detected – only to re-join highway E65 in the proximity of the Slovenian border. The conditions in the truck were described by the interviewee as very harsh, with no possibility to move, little water, and very hot temperatures.

After driving for about 3 hours in these circumstances, the respondent reports that the truck driver was stopped by what he described as four Croatian border officers at 10 pm. They were reported to have had two dogs and flashlights, which they used to inspect the back of the vehicle. The respondent describes that, as soon as they opened the doors of the truck, the authorities began pushing the people outside and started to strike each of them with batons.

The four policemen reportedly then divided the 120 people into groups of 20 and loaded each group into a van. The respondent looks shaken as he recalls the following drive to the unknown police station. He describes that the van was extremely crammed, lacking fresh air, and the temperature was really high. Moreover, the police were purposely driving fast and in circles, causing sickness and some people to even vomit.

“Inside the van, there was too much problem…people vomit and feel so bad…”

It was around midnight when they all reached what the respondent referred to as a police station, where they report to have been detained in one single room for 24 hours without any food and water. It was once again very hot, without any circulation of air.

“It was terrible, we couldn’t breathe…my friend took his shirt off and moved it around just to make some air!”

The respondent stated that about 10 policemen were present in the station. They frisked all the detained men and reporedly took all their belongings: cell phones, power banks, backpacks, clothes, but also documents, and money.

My friend had passport and asylum document he had in Greece 13 years ago. They take them and don’t give back. Only cash he don’t lose…because hidden in underwear.”

At about midnight on Sunday night, the respondent reports that policemen from the station drove them all back towards Bosnian territory and dropped them in an unknown location on the mountains. Exhausted, cold, and disoriented, he then walked for about 6 hours with 10 more people and reached his starting point again, Bihać.