The respondent is a 44 year old woman from Cuba who tried to cross the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia together with three other Cuban adults (two men and one woman) and her 11 and 17 year old children. The group suffered two pushbacks within 48 hours (see “Why do you cry? (II))
The respondent was not aware of the exact location of the border crossing, nor of the pushback, as she was following one of the men who was navigating for the group. However, she stated that they drove for around one hour from Bihać by car before they started walking, so the pushback likely happened close to Bihać as well. As explained further below, it seems that two of the officers who conducted the pushbacks were present during both incidents, therefore it is also probable that both pushbacks happened within the same geographical area.
The group crossed the border for the first time on Friday 2nd September, in the evening, and were around 10-15 km past the border when the respondent reported that a group of Croatian officers intercepted them for the first time. The four officers were presumably border police officers, based on the identification of their uniforms by the respondent (light blue shirts). The respondent described that they insulted the group, searched them, made them empty their bags one by one, and took away all of their electronic devices (including mobile phones and tablets of the children) by throwing them in a box. However, the group was later able to collect their devices again. The female group members, including the 11 year old girl, were searched by a female officer. The same officer was reportedly mocking the little girl by asking her:
“Why are you crying?”
After the officers called for reinforcement, another 10 (or more, the respondent was not sure about the exact number) officers joined them. They loaded the group into a van and drove them for an unknown amount of time into the forest. The respondent described the vehicle as a white van with a closed, windowless back compartment, two aluminium benches on each side, prison bars, and chains with handcuffs (which were not used). She did not give further details about the driving style, but mentioned that one of the men in the group felt sick. The officers briefly opened the door allowing him to throw up outside of the van. At this occasion, the respondent could see that at least two more cars marked ‘Police’ were following the van.
During the first pushback the transit group reportedly crossed the border back into Bosnia on the morning of September 3rd, accompanied by the shouts of the officers: “go, go, go now”. They entered the first village shop that they came across, and were informed of a nearby empty squat, where they spent the rest of the day sleeping.