A small group composed by three persons from Afghanistan, aged between 16 and 17 years old, entered in a truck somewhere near the Serbian village of Šid, at around 3:00 am on the 3rd February. The respondents waited an entire day inside the truck, until they reached the Croatian truck scanner at the Bajakova border crossing on the A3/E70 highway at around 9:00 pm (3rd February) [coordinates: 45.058338,19.096263]. At this point, the group was detected by Croatian officers who compelled the group to leave the vehicle.
The respondents described 14/15 Croatian authorities present at the time of the apprehension; 3 of which were described as female. Reportedly the authorities dressed wearing blue uniforms. The respondents could not remember particular marks on their uniforms, other than Croatian flags and some inscriptions they were not able to read.
Once outside the truck, the group was held for around 50 minutes at which point they were led into a white van without any inscriptions on it. After that they were driven close to the Serbian-Croatian border, in a spot that they were not able to recognise. The respondents recalled the van driving for the approximative duration of 10 minutes until arriving to a forest around 10:00 pm. Then the authorities forced them to go out of the van one by one. In the same way, they were forced one by one to hand over their phones to the authorities. Afterwards the two officers present at the time would have beaten each member of the group on the head and on the back between five and six times each. As soon as the authorities urged them to leave, the respondents started running. However, they could not orient themselves and they got lost. Thus, they mistakenly decided running in the direction of the nearby Bajakovo border crossing and back into Croatia.
“They (the Croatian officers) told us «go back to Serbia» but we didn’t know the way. It was really hard because they left us in a jungle, without mobile, without any location.”
After this confusion along the border, the respondents described that they were able to see from a distance several Croatian authorities talking over the phone. Allegedly the officers informed their colleagues who were dispatched to the area and encountered the group somewhere along the highway A3/E70 on the Croatian side of the border. The respondents were running since about 5 minutes when they were apprehended by 2 police officers, both men with blue uniforms. According to the interviewees the authorities had a normal police car and one dog with muzzle. Reportedly, the respondents tried explaining to the officers their difficulties finding the way back to Serbia.
Nevertheless, the officers called someone on the phone and some minutes later another white van arrived. According to the respondent, this van and the officers who drove it were the same as the ones who had returned them earlier in the evening. The group was loaded inside this closed prisoner transport van which then drove for what was said to be around 5 minutes, until they arrived in a spot near to the Serbian border (approximate location: 45.055519, 19.097421).
Once again, the respondents were called out of the van one by one. When the first of them came out, he was ordered to took off the shoes, gloves, hat and the jacket. An officer invited the respondent to get closer in an apparently friendly way, putting his arm around his shoulders and telling what the respondent remembered being:
“Come next to me my friend, we will bring you back to Serbia.”
However, the officer kept the respondent with is arm so that he was unable to move while an officer standing in front of them threatened him with a dog. Then the interviewee described being beaten with batons for an approximate amount of 3 minutes in all parts of the body. Immediately after the authorities ordered him to stand waiting while the second group’s member was called out.
“They beat us two times, I have a lot of pain in my shoulder and in my leg.”
The second respondent described suffering the same treatment, as well as the third respondent. The authorities would have forced them to take off all clothes but trousers and t-shirt. All the respondent’s money were stolen.
“I had 450 euro, they took all my money.”
Then they explained being beaten with batons for 2/3 minutes in all the parts of the body. Particularly, the officers hit the second respondent’s fingers, where he felt deep pain the days later.
According to the respondents, they were standing in a line when the authorities ordered them to leave one by one. The first group’s member started running but the dog followed him. The dog, described wearing a muzzle, jumped on the respondent’s back, who fell down covered by the dog body. Then the officers called back the dog at the same time as they exhorted the second respondent to leave.
“We walked 5 hours without any shoes and the weather was so cold.”
It was around 11:00 pm at this point, and after walking into the direction of Serbia, the group walked together toward the Serbian village Šid for approximatively 5 hours. Reflecting on this incident, one of the respondents said the following:
“I have one question: why they are doing like this? We are all part of humanity. They left us in a jungle, in a wrong way, we didn’t know how to go back (…) They also beat us two times.”