“We sat and police come around and throw pepper spray in the eyes”

  • Date and time: July 5, 2021 00:00
  • Location: Highway E-65, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 45.063700099284, 15.74472019707
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 30 person(s), age: 14 -15, 20-35 years old , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), pushing people to the ground, exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, pepper spray, water immersion, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 13 Croatian Special Police Officers, 3 vans
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

On the night of July 4th to July 5th, a group of 30 Afghan men was pushed back from Croatia, where they got apprehended on highway E-65, to the outskirts of Sturlic, Bosnia. “We were thirty in the group and the police caught everyone in 65 Street”. The respondent says that there were minors among the group members: “Some people were 15, some 30, some 35” and that they all had departed from Bihac a week prior to the pushback.

The respondent claims that, in total, the group members encountered 13 authorities. First, they were caught by 10 officers while walking on the highway E-65, and later they encountered three other authorities when they were taken to the border in the area of Sturlic, Bosnia where they were pushed back to. The respondent described the authorities’ uniforms as “military” as they were wearing camouflage trousers and jackets. This strongly indicates that the 13 officers were part of the Croatian Special Police (SJP). 

The respondent stated that the police officers used a baton to strike the group members “two or three times to all people” in order to make the group sit down: “When the police said stop, we all had to sit and stop walking”. The respondent says that the authorities threatened them to prevent them from standing up. Furthermore, the respondent says that the authorities sprayed pepper spray at all of the group members’ faces.“We have sat and police come around and throw pepper spray in the eyes and here (pointing to his neck)”. 

He further recounts how the authorities took their belongings and set them on fire: “Police takes everything from us: clothes, bags, phone, money, shoes”. The respondent added that the authorities “steal” their things and “make fire” with them while they were sitting on the ground. 

“Police brought the cars, beat us for a while and took our phones and everything and deported us to Sturlic”. He then adds: “There were three cars. We were 30 people and 10 people went in each car”. The trip between the spot where the group members were captured on highway E-65 until Sturlic, lasted for what felt like three hours to the respondent.

He described it as the following: “The car was also horrible, it was too hot inside because there were too many people”. He added that some people had stomach problems and were throwing up during the trip, which amounted to the distress of all people inside the vehicle. The respondent says that the car did not make any stop on its way to Sturlic. When asked about the appearance of the car, the respondent says it was a big police car, white and black. 

The respondent told that “when the doors of the car opened, 3 other policemen were waiting and started beating us”. He claims that, after getting out of the vehicle, the officer used batons to urge the group members to cross a river to reach the other side of the border in Sturlic, Bosnia.“In Sturlic there was water, with this water we had to cross to Bosnia”. The respondent describes the difficulties the group members encountered crossing the river and how, as they were crossing, some group members were vomiting because they were still feeling sick after the car ride. 

The respondent claims that the group walked back from Sturlic to Bihac for four hours without shoes and that the group members were exhausted. Also, the respondent added that they did not have the chance to ask for asylum during the happening.