During the last week of August – approximately the 23rd – a group of 33 people-on-the-move were pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The group was composed of men from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The primary respondent for this report, a 19-year-old from Afghanistan, described that his group of around 30 men had initially left from Bosnia-Herzegovina into Croatia around the 10th of August and had been walking for 12 days in the interior of the country when the Croatian authorities apprehended them near the Slovenian border with Croatia. At this time, they were located near the small Croatian town of Rupa around 9:00 pm [coordinates of the point of apprehension: 45.482126, 14.280089]. They were found by four male officers dressed all in black including balaclavas. When the police found them, the group scattered. The reporter explained how the officers had asked him in English to call out to those running away and tell them to stop. In Pashto he shouted “don’t come, we are arrested by police” but he told the officers in English that he’d said “I told them to come, that there was no police anymore”. Several of the group escaped and have since reached Italy. The reporter said that the Croatian officers did not take his shoes, as they did with others in the group, because he had told them he was Christian and not Muslim.
After their initial apprehension, the group was taken to a police station in Croatia where they were detained for around 3 hours [likely the Rupa Border Police Station]. During this time, the group-members mobile phones and money were taken from them [bills only, not coins]. After this time, the men were transported away from the police station in two vehicles. The respondent was placed in one of these vehicles – a windowless van with 8 others – and driven to the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The respondent described that the location which they were brought to was marked by the Korana river and was around three kilometers away from a main road. There were no visible buildings he could see from this place. He also described there was another group of people-on-the-move who had been brought there who were not from his original group. It was still night time when they arrived..
The respondent recalled that 33 people were removed from the several vans which had transported them. Six officers were present, dressed all in black with balaclavas. The officers had their names on their uniforms but it was dark and some of the names were covered.
Everyone got out together, were lined up facing the water, and were told to get in the river and swim across: “Everyone together. Tell everyone to go…Were in a line and beating until people go.”
Many people screamed that they did not know how to swim but the officers beat them and forced them into the water anyway. The respondent was with two friends who managed to help each other to swim across. Out of the entire group, they were not the first or the last to enter the water but rather in the middle, they were all very scared. Once they reached a main road, they orientated themselves and realized that they were near the town of Šturlić: “Mountains and jungle, cross this and then the town [of Šturlić]”. The three friends then had to walk the 40 plus kilometres south, through the town and down to Bihać.
Two days later, the respondent heard that two men from the deported group had drowned. One was a man from Pakistan who was a friend of a friend; the respondent recalled him screaming as he was forced into the water. The friend of the drowned man reported that another man was missing after that night and is presumed dead. This same friend has been in touch with the family of the deceased and is trying to organise the repatriation of the body to Pakistan.