A group of 72 people from Afghanistan and Pakistan were sleeping in the Croatian forest to rest after several nights walking from Bosnia. Around approximately 4.00 pm, a team of what the respondent described as “army” officers, wearing green uniforms, wakes this group up. The interviewee thinks that the officers found them through the use of cameras. They ask them to wake up and ask what they are doing there. One of the officers asks who of the group can speak English. No one answers. The officers then ask them to stand and they call another law-enforcement team to come to take them.
While waiting, the army checks the people-on-the-move, asking them if they have any weapons such as knives or pistols. Then they take each person’s phone and check their maps to look at their locations. Then they put the belongings into a bag. The officers ask the group to undress to their underwear. The officers then thoroughly search their clothing along the seams, searching for money that could’ve been hidden. The officers then return the clothing but not all of the shoes.
Three police vans come and 25 people are put into each vehicle. The interviewee describes the van as having two benches on each side where six people can sit on both sides. The others who are not able to sit then sit on the floor or on other people’s legs, which was the case for the interviewee. The conditions inside the van while driving made people in the van feel sick. The interviewee describes the inside of the van as really hot and lacking air. The group members are close to vomiting and are afraid that some members of their group could die from these conditions.
“That bus, he closed the van, one is 25 person all together, three hours. And he don’t open the van, putting bum, bum, bum (miming beating actions) open van and all throw up. No light, it is closed. It is hot. Same like it’s closed everything. Don’t have air, everybody throw up. No sit, they have sit for six person there [indicating with his hands both sides of the van] and all down. He (the translator speaks of the interviewee) is sitting on leg of people. He want feeling like [throwing up] everybody. Maybe one/two person [could] die because it don’t have oxygen and [police] don’t listen.”
They drive for three hours. When they arrive at the Bosnian border, the police make people exit the van two by two. It is between 11.00pm and 12.00am when they exit the van. Most of the group is barefoot, their shoes and socks having been taken by the officers where they were caught.
There is already a fire at the border when the group exits the van. The interviewee said that he could see a policeman feeding the fire with the shoes, making it bigger and bigger. The interviewee estimates the amount of police officers as around 10 to 12. The interviewee sees that 5 to 6 policemen are standing on both sides of the back of the van when he exits the van. This matches the description of the Tunnel Trick that has been reported in other pushbacks from Croatia.
Although it is dark, the interviewee states he could see that the police officers are wearing dark uniforms and ski masks. In total, the interviewee estimates that all people exiting the vans are beaten. He expresses the fact that the police beat the first two people exiting the van and the last people exiting the van harder.
After this beating, the people-on-the-move run away. While running, many fall due to the darkness and the rough terrain, including holes in the ground and tree branches. While running, some people are injured by a block of beton [concrete] located approximately twenty meters away from the parked police van. People trying to escape the police officers’ violence would run unknowingly into this block of concrete, which would injure their legs and/or feet.
The group then walks to Velika Kladuša for thirteen kilometers. According to their descriptions of the pushback location, including the block of concrete, appears to correspond with Poljana, BiH.