“We all felt like 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 regular croatian police officers, 6 croatian intervention police officers, 1 police 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.
They left from a city near Sarajevo around 11 pm, and after 6 hours, when the train on which they were travelling arrived in Zagreb around 5 am, 2 police officers (from the description of their uniforms, they could belong to regular croatian police) got  on the train, where they apprehended all the group and 2 other people from Afghanistan: a pregnant woman and her husband, who were travelling in the same coach.

The police 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 policemen took all their personal belongings and forced everyone to sit in a row on the ground.

Being the respondent 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 the police pretended not to understand the request. They did not ask about any personal information.
At some point the respondent asked a police officer to call IOM, with the aim to ask  to be taken to a reception center in Zagreb, in order to apply for asylum, but the policemen still had their mobile phones, and they did not return them.

The respondent reports that the group was detained for some hours inside the police station, but he couldn’t remember how many. No food or water was provided during that time.
After some time, the police officers brought them outside, where 3 other policemen completely dressed in black clothes (the uniforms’ description could match the croatian intervention police uniforms) were waiting to load them in a black van.
After a 2 hours ride without any water or food, the van stopped. The respondent states 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 recalls the van in details:

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 suffocating. The police did not even give water to the pregnant woman that was asking for it”.

Eventually,  a police officer opened the door of the van and told the people in a very aggressive way to go out, in the middle of the forest, somewhere close to the border. At that point, 3 more intervention police officers were already waiting there. The respondent reports that, when all the people got out of the van, the police  started to kick them all, minors and the pregnant woman, without saying anything, using batons on their legs and backs.

When the police left it was night and raining. It was very difficult for the group to reach Bosnia, since the police didn’t give back their personal belongings, so they didn’t even have a mobile phone to understand which direction to take. It took for them 2 days to go back to Velika Kladusa.