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Why do you cry? (II)

Date & Time 2022-04-09
Location Croatian border near Šturlić, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Reported by Aid Brigade Sarajevo
Coordinates 45.0074375, 15.7716875
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 11 - 59
Group size 6
Countries of origin Cuba
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 16
Violence used insulting, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 10 Croatian officers in border police uniform and 6 Croatian officers in intervention police uniform

During the first pushback (see “Why do you cry? (I)) the group crossed the border back into Bosnia on September 3rd in the morning, 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.

The respondent explained that they left again in the evening of the same day and crossed the border into Croatia for a second time. Around 10-11 pm, the respondent reported that they were intercepted by four officers in light blue shirts, who made them walk to a nearby street, on which two cars carrying around 10 officers appeared. The respondent recognised two of them (the eldest male officer of the group as well as the female officer) as they were part of the previous pushback. She also stated that she explicitly expressed the wish to claim asylum in Croatia, but was refused the possibility to do so.

According to the respondent, the group was loaded into the same van as during the first pushback, and they were driven for around 30 minutes. When they left the van, the respondent described that another six officers in dark-blue sweaters carrying firearms and truncheons were waiting for them. Their faces were reportedly covered by facemasks for almost the whole time. From the description given by the respondent, it is likely that they belong to the Croatian intervention police unit.

The respondent could not recall for how long they walked until they reached a small river without water, which she described as the border between Croatia and Bosnia. According to her, the 59 year old Cuban man in the group suffered from cancer or another serious disease, and was physically weakened. He therefore stopped more often than the other group members and informed the officers that he was in pain. The officers reportedly threatened him by pointing his firearm at the older man, but then asked the son of the respondent to help the man move on.

The respondent said she was very afraid for her son at this moment, as she could not see him in the dark and was not sure if he and the other men were still following the group. In the end, the officers carried the man down to the river, as he was so weak that he could not walk independently.

The officers reportedly screamed at them:

You are illegal, go now, go!

They gave them back their belongings (however, the respondent recounted that some clothes and other items got lost in the chaos). The group crossed the stream, but was too exhausted to continue without food, water, nor warm clothes, so they decided to wait in the forest until the morning after. According to the respondent, the Croatian officers stayed close to them on the Croatian side for the whole night, scaring them with noises and flashlights, but did not cross the dry riverbed.

The respondent also mentioned that one of the officers briefly took off his mask in the course of the night, but she could not see his face. He offered her a coffee, but she did not dare to drink it out of fear that it could contain drugs or similar.

The officers reportedly let the group rest until around 5:30 a.m., when they started shouting at them to move on. The group eventually continued walking through the forest and reached a street after around 5 minutes. The respondent and her children were too exhausted to try crossing the border another time, so they decided to spend the last of their money on a car that stopped and offered a taxi ride to Borici family camp in Bihać.