“We all felt like we were suffocating”

  • Date and time: August 20, 2022 05:00
  • Location: Close to the Bosnian border near Velika Kladuša
  • Coordinates: 45.073264631878, 16.32169786887
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 8 person(s), age: 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 27 years old , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 2 croatian officers wearing regular uniforms, 6 croatian officers wearing Intervention Police uniforms, 1 black van
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

A group of 6 people from Afghanistan tried to cross the border between Bosnia and Croatia on the 20th August to reach Slovenia.

The respondent from the group reported that they left from a city near Sarajevo around 11 pm. After 6 hours, when the train on which they were travelling arrived in Zagreb around 5 am, 2 officers (from the description of their uniforms, it is likely they were regular Croatian police) got on the train. According to the respondent, they apprehended the group and 2 other people from Afghanistan: a pregnant woman and her husband, who were travelling in the same coach.

The officers reportedly told all of them to get off the train and, when they did, they were taken to a police station. According to the respondent, they were taken to Velika Gorica police station. When they arrived there, the officers took all their personal belongings and forced everyone to sit in a row on the ground.

As the respondent was the only group member who was able to speak English, he expressed the intention to apply for asylum on behalf of the whole group, but he explained that the police pretended not to understand the request. They did not ask about any personal information.

At some point the respondent asked an officer to call IOM, with the aim to ask to be taken to a reception center in Zagreb, in order to apply for asylum. However, the officer still had their mobile phones, and according to the respondent they did not return them.

The respondent reported that the group was detained for some hours inside the police station; he couldn’t remember how many. No food or water was provided during that time.

After some time, the officers reportedly brought them outside, where 3 other officers completely dressed in black clothes (the uniforms’ description align with Croatian Intervention Police uniforms) were waiting to load them into a black van.
After a 2 hour ride without any water or food, the van stopped. The respondent stated that in the van it was very hard to breathe, due to the lack of air that was caused by a lot of people locked up in a small space.

The respondent recalled the van in detail:

“All the windows were black and locked, it was impossible to see outside and there was just a small hole, the size of one cent, where the air could come inside. We all felt like we were suffocating. The police did not even give water to the pregnant woman that was asking for it”.

Eventually, the respondent recounted that an officer opened the door of the van and told the people to get out in a very aggressive way, in the middle of the forest, somewhere close to the border. Three more officers wearing Intervention Police uniforms were already waiting there. The respondent reported that, when all the people got out of the van, the officers started to kick them all, including the minors and the pregnant woman, without saying anything, using batons on their legs and backs.

When the officers left it was night time and it had started raining. It was very difficult for the group to reach Bosnia, since the respondent reported that the officers didn’t give back their personal belongings, so they didn’t even have a mobile phone to work out which direction to take. It took them 2 days to get back to Velika Kladuša.