Violent pushback of one single man from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina 9th of February 2022
The group that started the transit attempt consisted of 4 men. Since the group split up after a few hours, the following pushback report only concerns the respondent.
The respondent is a 43-year-old man from Iraq. He left Velika Kladuša on foot with three other men from Morocco (17, 24, 34 years old) on the morning (9 am) of 9th of February 2022.
As the respondent felt that his leg was in a critical condition after 3 hours of walking and also that he had less energy than the other men, he decided not to stay with the group. He reported that from 1 pm he continued on his own very slowly, with several breaks.
He reported that he was about 4 km from the bus station in Karlovac at around 2 pm when five men in dark blue uniforms in a smaller car and a large van stopped and apprehended him (location of apprehension: 45.640027, 15.584321).
The respondent remembered badges on the dark blue uniforms and that the men had small fire guns. The description of their uniforms matches with the uniforms worn by Croatian border police. The cars are most likely to be a patrol car and a prisoner transport van. The respondent stated that he was first patted down and had to hand over all his personal belongings (phone, power bank, backpack). He was also asked to take off his jacket and shoes. His money, which he had previously sewn into his waistband, was not found. He was then asked where his friends were. He answered that he was now traveling alone and did not know where the other men were. The respondent stated, that upon this reply, he was kicked in the thigh, knee, and lower leg.
He reported that the policemen were wearing steel-toed shoes. He was also beaten on his shoulders, arms, and upper body with fists. One of the policemen used a large branch as a baton.
The respondent described being asked again and again about the location of his friends, and being beaten again after each of his answers: “Sir, I’m alone” and shouted at: “You are a liar, where are your friends?”. He emphasized that none of the blows, neither with a branch nor with fists, were aimed at his face. He reported that the policemen took turns.
The respondent estimated that he was asked to go into the van after about 10 minutes. There he was put in a cube-shaped box with bars “like prison”, while the other police officers searched the nearby area and communicated via radios. The respondent did not understand what was being said. After what felt to the respondent like 40 minutes in total, they left the location of apprehension. The following car ride took, what felt to the respondent like 5 minutes. The respondent stated that the van stopped again and one of the police officers came into the back of the car with the branch used as a baton. He asked the respondent again where the friends were and then hit him with the branch through the bars. The respondent estimated that 20 minutes passed before the car ride continued.
The respondent stated that the following car ride felt like 10 minutes. When the van reached the pushback location, the patrol car was already on the scene. He reported that it was still daylight. According to his time information, he reached the pushback location between 3.30 and 4 pm.
The respondent stated that there were 4 or 5 policemen also in dark blue uniform present at the pushback site. They opened the back doors of the van and the cage-like interior and told him to go back to Bosnia: “Go fast, go there, this is Bosnia!” pointing out a direction. The respondent was reluctant to leave the van because he was very afraid of being beaten again, he stated that he feared for his life:
“I’m scared for this, for the wood, maybe they will kill me”.
A policeman then shouted at him to return to Bosnia immediately. He jumped out of the van and ran on his socks as fast as he could in the direction indicated. He reported that while he was running he was hit again from behind with the branch. The following photo shows traces of this blow.
The respondent stated that he walked for several hours without orientation through wooded areas, looking for landmarks:
“I go, go, go, no maps, no phone, no understand, where I go”.
After what felt like 5 hours to him, he reached a village about 10 km from Vrnograč. He described being very hungry and that he was shivering. He reported that he rang the bell at a house where he had seen a family through the window pane. At that point he could ask what time it was, it was 8 pm. This family provided him with water, some food, a jacket, and shoes. They also provided him with a contact who drove him to his starting point Velika Kladuša by car for 13 euros, which he was able to hide from the police before.
At 10 pm he reached back to Velika Kladuša.