On the morning of 27th January 2022, a group of 6 people was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The group consisted of 6 males from Afghanistan including 2 minors. The ages of the group were 16, 17, 23, 25, 26, and 27.
The respondent is 26 years old and stated that, on 26th January, the group was waiting in a wooded area to be picked up by a car, when they were apprehended by five officers wearing black uniforms. The uniforms of the officers had black badges on but the respondent could not see much detail, as the whole group was commanded to sit down. The respondent described how the group crouched down with their arms over their heads. An officer kicked the respondent in the lower leg, not leaving any visible injury but “it’s still feeling pain“, and another group member was kicked in the chest. From the description given, the officers were likely the intervention unit of the Croatian police. The respondent thinks that the officers found the group because their footprints were visible in the snow.
After the group was apprehended, they remained in the same location for what felt like several hours to the respondent. An additional officer described as ‘normal border police’ waited on the road, allegedly with the intention of catching the car that the group was waiting for. When the car did not arrive, the group was driven to a police station.
At the police station, each group member gave personal details, the name of each person was written on a sign, which each person then held in front of them as a photo was taken. Phones were searched before being confiscated. The personal belongings of the group (phones, power banks, bags) were gathered into a big plastic bag and never returned to them. No fingerprints were taken, but they were required to sign a paper. The respondent did not know which language the paper was in, it could have been English or Croatian. No translator was provided or explanation was given. The respondent also said that if people did not sign the paper, then an officer would sign it instead.
The group was at the police station for 1 or 2 hours during which time a female officer used ‘bad words’ against them. The group was then taken into a ‘deport car’ – likely a police van known to be used by the Croatian authorities – and driven for 4 or 5 hours. The driving was described as being erratic, fast but with sudden braking, which caused the group members to collide with each other. They reached the green border between Croatia and Bosnia at 2 or 3 am. The group member who had been kicked in the chest was feeling significantly unwell, “his strength was finished”. The respondent described that his heart was going too fast and that two of the group had to support him as he walked. The group walked for around 4 hours from the border back to Bihac, arriving at about 6 am.