The respondent is a 24-year-old man who was traveling with two families from both Iraq and Afghanistan. They are seven in total, with ages ranging from 5 to 39, and have been on the move for the past seven years attempting to seek asylum in the EU. Their latest pushback was on the morning of the day we spoke.
The family left Bosnia, near the city of Velika Kladusa, and crossed into Croatia around 05:00 on the morning of February 9th, 2022. Five minutes after passing into Croatia the family stopped to rest, this is when the respondent noticed lights in the forest. The family quickly hid and a few minutes later police arrived searching the area. After a while, the children became cold so the family decided to call the police to let them know where they were located.
One officer approached them, who then called over another three. They were wearing all-black uniforms with black masks covering their faces, a description fitting with that of the Croatian Intervention Police. One of the officers was holding what the respondent believed to be an infrared camera.
It was at this point that the family stated they wished to seek asylum in Croatia. The officers made no response to this request, other than to radio for a vehicle, a large white transport van, which arrived ten minutes later. The police then took everyone’s mobile phones and powerbanks, saying that they would be returned, and had the family load into the back of the van.
After driving for 30 minutes the van stopped and the family was let out of the back. The now 7 officers, dressed in all black, returned the phones and powerbanks and told the family to cross the border back into Bosnia.
“Before we say we want to stay in Croatia, we want asylum, and he [the Intervention Police Officer] don’t say anything. After that, we come to border and he say ‘Go, this way, to Bosnia.’”
The illegal pushback took place in the area of Durin Potok.
“This is the first time police don’t beat me. Don’t take my mobile or my money. Before, the last years, we try to go and they [the police] take our phone, our money, everything.”
The family did as the officers said, crossed back into Bosnia, and began the three-hour walk back to Velika Kladusa to rest and try again another time, maybe that same night. Maybe a few hours after this report was taken.
“This is our life. What to do? We will try, again again again. Seven years I am like this..we will try. Don’t give up.”