On the 26th of February the respondent, a family father with his two daughters, was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia together with two other people. The group had left two days previously from the border area surrounding Velika Kladusa on foot.
The group was apprehended by Croatian police officers when they were around 2 – 3 hours away from Zagreb (on foot) in a forested area closeby to an unknown village. The 3 officers, that the respondent described as “normal police” in blue uniforms, took them to a nearby police station and registered their names and data. When the respondent refused to sign a paper because he could not understand it and there was no translator offered, the authorities forced him to sign by gripping his neck. The respondent claimed that the group members asked for asylum, but they were being ignored.
After the registration was over, the group was brought to the Bosnian border in a white vehicle. In the back of the van, the airconditioning was turned very cold, even though there were cold temperatures outside.
At the border close to the Bosnian village Bosanska Bojna, the group was awaited by another police unit, which the respondent described as 6 authorities all wearing black clothing and blacks ski masks over their faces. In a forested place, the group had to leave the van, the respondent was taken harshly and struck by the authorities. His daughter tried to stop the officers:
“Don’t do that my father has heard problems”.
As a reaction to this, the officers allegedly struck the girl as well and took away her phone. According to the respondent, the officers told the group:
“Go Bosnia, Bosnia!”
Allegedly, the entire group was beaten by these officers who struck them with their hands, feet, and sticks. After being forced to walk across the Croatian border with Bosnia, the group then proceeded to return back to Velika Kladusa on foot. It took them 8 hours to walk approximately 30 km to Velika Kladusa from the pushback site.
Days later, one of the respondents reflected on their frustration with the obstacle they have encountered in their request for safety in Europe:
“I want that Europe knows what is happening to us here! We try to find a life in peace, where children can go to school and they are treating us in that inhuman way here!”
** The respondent and his two daughters were medically examined upon arrival in Velika Kladusa by medical volunteers, their assessment is included in full below:
All three patients were severely dehydrated, exhausted and weak. It was obvious that they had not eaten for several days and had just gone through extreme physical activity.
The 15-year-old female presented with pain in her back. On examination, we saw multiple same-sized longitudinal hematomas over the skin of the whole back all of which appeared to be caused by blunt violence by the same longitudinal object, e.g. a baton, stick or beating with a gun.
The 18-year-old had pain in her right shoulder, where on examination we found a swelling over her right scapula. Further palpation was not possible due to pain, we could not exclude a fracture. She also reported of pain in her leg, which was bruised over a large area. Both injuries were very unlikely caused by an accident as on the one hand the localisations are not only completely untypical but also almost impossible to be caused without any injuries in the surrounding areas. They are however highly suggestive of the use of external force, as beating with a hard, probably longitudinal object in the case of the scapula and blunt force as e.g. kicking in the case of the leg.
The 40-year-old male complaint of pain all over his body, further examination was unfortunately not possible due to the extreme exhaustion of the patients and the circumstances in which we had to treat them.