The respondent, a middle-aged man from Afghanistan, on the week between the 22nd and 27th of March left Lipa camp near Bihac (BiH) with a group of 85 people-on-the-move, all from Afghanistan, to start the journey towards Italy by foot.
On the 2nd of March, at 08:00 in the morning, 53 out of the 85 people were caught in Croatia before reaching the national route E61 highway at its northern point, a few kilometres away from the Slovenian border. Four police officers apprehended them, whose description corresponds to the Special Police. Aside from those initially captured, about 25-30 people managed to escape, including the respondent, continuing their journey towards the border for a little while. However, they were caught again after few kilometres later by six police officers, also resembling Special Police. At this point a further 18 of them, including the respondent, were caught, while a smaller group managed to avoid this.
According to the respondent, the police officers who caught them did not mistreat them, but did confiscate their mobile phones. After some hours, the group of 18 people was given to another group of police officers, this time identified by their uniforms matching that of Intervention Police. According to the respondent, the police officers who took them in vans to the border were approximately 30 in number.
The group were not taken to any police station but remained the whole time in the vehicles of the officers, who took their names, country of origin and photo. They were not informed on what was going to happen to them and on where they would have been brought.
In the evening, they were finally transported to an unknown open land on the border with BiH. Here the police took everything belonging to the people: clothes, phones, money. Then, the officers ordered the transit group to lie down and started beating them both with the feet and with batons. As the respondent repeated several times during the interview, the police beat them for what seemed like two hours, while they were lying on the ground, in all body parts, including the face. The people in the transit group were also ordered by the police to hit each other.
Note: The respondent, on the 7th of April, when the testimony was taken, showed clear signs of the violence suffered: he had a broken lip and a blakc/blue bruising on his face. He also claimed to have a huge bruise on the upper part of the leg.
On the morning after the pushback, the group of 18 people walked back to BiH and found themselves in the city of Velika Kladusa. From there, they walked back to the city of Bihac and, after three days, reached Lipa camp.
The interview with the respondent was facilitated by a friend of him who helped with the translation. He was also part of the group of 53 migrants caught by the police the first time but did not manage to escape as the respondent did. His group was pushed-backed in the bordering area near Bihac by the Croatian authorities and was unharmed. They did however have their phones taken. The group member stated that:
“Not all police officers are bad, but some are very bad”.