On Saturday, 17th of December 2022, a 27-year-old man from Guinea-Bissau was pushed back two times from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first pushback happened in the morning around 9am. The second pushback was around 11am.
The transit group consisted of 4 men, all coming from Guinea-Bissau, aged 20, 27, 33 and 42. They left Velika Kladuša in the evening with a taxi, with the thought that they would be brought across the border. Instead, they were taken to a squat in Glinica and spent the night there. The respondent stated that they started walking around 5am in the morning, starting from Glinica, and walked for 1 hour before reaching the border. They managed to cross the border and walked another 3 hours with some moments of rest in-between. They reached a village around 9am, but the respondent could not remember its name. According to the description and location given by the respondent, it could likely be ‘Staro Selo Topusko’. The number of walking hours corresponds to this distance.
The respondent reports that they were moving when suddenly they saw two police cars, one small car and one van; in both cars there was a person that the respondent refers to as “police officer”. The respondent describes the cars being white and blue and the officers wearing dark blue clothes with batons. After the description of the uniforms they were wearing and the cars they arrived in, it seems most likely that the officers were members of the Croatian police.
They tried to run away but reportedly one of the people in the car started screaming with a gun pointed at them: “Police, police. Stop running or I will shoot.”
All of the others stopped running, but the respondent explains that he was trying to hide. He states that at first the officers did not see him. But then a dog, that had followed them all the way, made some noise and the officer started screaming: “Get out, get out!”. The respondent recalls that one officer approached them and said: “I told you not to run, why are you running and hiding?”.The officer stamped his feet against the respondent’s legs and hit him, and did the same with his friends. He took his baton and hit all of them multiple times. All the respondent could say was: “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
The other officer asked where they were coming from and told them to give them all of their phones and power banks and confiscated them. The respondent describes that they tried to do everything they said. They gave them their phones, power banks and charging cables. Thereafter, the officers started talking on the phone in their own language and at some point said: “We are with some black people.” Subsequently, they were loaded in the police van. They were driven for around 20 minutes and were then told to get out of the van. While they were dropped somewhere around the border the officers gave them their phones, power banks and charging cables back. One of the officers said: “Go, go, and don’t come back again.”
The respondent states that afterwards the transit group was trying to go back into Bosnia because they were really tired. They thought they were going the right direction but it was very difficult because they did not have any navigation anymore since they did not have any charged phones left. They were trying to get out of Croatia, but instead they were moving inland again. The transit group wanted to rest, to eat and to charge their phones, but they ended up in a Croatian village again around 11am, after walking for 1,5 hours. Unfortunately, the respondent cannot recall the name of the village.
Once more, they saw around 3 police officers and 1 police van. The respondent explains that they did not want to run away again. The officers told them to come towards them and said: “What the fuck! You guys again? What did I tell you guys? Why are you here again? We told you guys to leave!” It was then that the respondent noticed they were the same officers from some hours before. The respondent answered:
“Sorry, we are walking the wrong way. We don’t know the forest, we don’t know the place. Our batteries are down. We don’t know how to get out of here.”
Reportedly, he officer started making phone calls. The transit group was sitting outside for around 20 minutes while the officers were inside the cars. The respondent explains that they were very cold because they were not moving and that none of the officers took care of them.The oldest man in the group started to smoke a cigarette whereupon one of the officers approached him and began to beat him with a baton.
The respondent then describes the arrival of another police car and a bus, after waiting for 20 minutes.They were told to get on the bus and were driven for 15 minutes. Once back at the border, the respondent reports that 4 officers waited in the car while one officer of massive build with a baton guided them into the forest. The respondent explained he had a strange and scared feeling and was thinking:
“What is he going to do with us?”
After some walking the officer stopped and said: “Here is the border. I don’t want to see you guys here anymore!” The respondent wanted to cross the officer, while on his turn he started beating him with his baton on his bump. The respondent explains that all the other people got very scared and the youngest one, 20 years old, started screaming: “Please stop, don’t do that. Please. Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Afterwards, the officer hit everybody multiple times with his baton while the transit group was crossing him. The officer continued:
“If we see you guys again, it will not be good. Maybe we are going to do bad things with you.”
The transit group started walking further into Bosnia, until they reached a road. Once there, they didn’t have any condition to pay for a taxi. They walked a long time until they found a bus. The transit group paid €5 each to get back to Velika Kladuša bus station, and later reached an informal settlement. The respondent describes how everybody was exhausted and in pain because of the beating with the baton. He said:
“I had to cry because I remembered my life and I had to ask myself, why? Why must these things happen to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this? It made me feel really sad. Why does it have to be like this? I cannot find the answer…”