A small group composed of three people from Afghanistan, aged between 16 and 17 years old, entered a truck somewhere near the Serbian village of Šid, at around 3 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 PM (3rd February) [coordinates: 45.058338,19.096263]. At this point, the group was detected by Croatian officers who reportedly forced 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 wore 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.
The respondents explained that 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 approximately 10 minutes until arriving at a forest around 10 pm. Then the authorities forced them to get 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. According to the respondents, afterwards, the two officers present at the time beat 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 recalled that they could not orient themselves and they got lost. They mistakenly decided to run 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 said they were running for about 5 minutes when they were apprehended by 2 police officers, both men were in blue uniforms. According to the respondents, the authorities had a normal police car and one dog with a muzzle. The respondents reportedly 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 what was described as 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 take off the shoes, gloves, hat and 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 allegedly kept the respondent with his arm so that he was unable to move while an officer standing in front of them threatened him with a dog. Then the respondent described being beaten with batons for approximately 3 minutes all over his 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 forced them to take off all clothes but trousers and t-shirt. All the respondent’s money was stolen.
“I had 450 Euro, they took all my money.”
Then they explained being beaten with batons for 2-3 minutes all over their body. Particularly, the officers hit the second respondent’s fingers, where he said he felt deep pain 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 was described as wearing a muzzle and jumped on the respondent’s back, who fell down under the weight of the dog’s 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 PM at this point, and after walking in 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.”