The respondent in this incident was a converted Christian from Iran, who had been a displaced person for 18 years. He asserts that he was targeted by the Iranian and Turkish secret service, because of his international friendships and spent several periods in prison, because he was framed as a spy. Having been removed multiple times from EU-countries, the respondent stated he was attempting once again to seek sanctuary in a place where he would not be endangered because of his political and religious beliefs.
The respondent travelled together with another man, and together they started from Livno (BiH) and went through the wooded mountains, crossing into Croatian territory at 06:00 in the morning on 6th June 2019. Heavy rain started as they walked and the pair was forced to endure 15 hours of rainfall as they passed through the forest. The respondent described how they stopped in a village:
“There we got rid of everything, all of the clothes because it was wet and very smelly.”
The transit group travelled further in the Croatian interior and were ultimately able to stop for some rest and in order to buy something to eat. The respondent stated:
“We were so hungry. Luckily, police didn’t catch us.”
However, the transit group encountered police approximately one hours drive from Rijeka. The two men were observed on a bus by a civilian who left the vehicle to inform officers at a motorway services.
“In Zadar everything was good. But afterwards, one hour from Rijeka, we stopped at a gas station on the highway, where there also was a police station. One men went out of the bus to this police station and told the police there, that we are maybe refugees. He heard us how we spoke our language.”
Upon alerting the authorities, three Croatian police officers came out of the station and approached the pair in transit to ask if they had passports. The respondent recalls how:
“First I said, `Yes, I have a passport and a bus ticket!´ but then I looked to my friend, and they realized we are refugees.”
“You know, this is like a game. You go one way, and maybe a snake is waiting for you, so you have to hide and go another way. But for us this game is serious.”
The Croatian police officers took them inside the station and began to question the two group members.
“One of them was really racist. But when I explained my situation, and asked them, how they can do this to us when we are Christians, they were sorry and a bit nicer. But anyways they called the border police.”
Then one male and one female officer, described by the respondent as Croatian border police, arrived at the station. They wore a dark blue uniform and batons on their belt. As they entered, they began to yell at the transit group.
“They were really aggressive, like dogs barking at us. They asked, why are we coming to their country. But we are refugees.”
The respondent replied to the officers:
“You give me passport and respect me as a human, there is no problem, I come and go. If you don’t give me passport, I will come many times and try again and again.”
Then the Croatian police officers forced the men into a van and drove the transit group three hours to the police station in Korenica (Croatia), next to the border with Bosnia.
“When they let us out of the van, they brought us into an old garage, with just a concrete floor. It’s just a prison. We got no food, no water and we had to piss in bottles that were standing on the ground. There were only three very dirty thin mattresses lying on the floor.”
In the station, the police officers took pictures of the documents that the two group members had with them, and questioned them further regarding their name and where they were from. There was no translator present in Korenica police station. The officers didn’t take fingerprints and didn’t give the group members any papers to sign. After some time, 16 persons from Pakistan were also brought to the same prison/garage in which the two group members were detained. In total the respondent and his companion spent 15 hours over the night in the garage.
“The Croatian police sees us as animals. They were really racist and didn’t want to understand us. But Germany and other EU-states pay money to Croatia, that they protect the borders like this.”
On the 7th of June 2019, having passed a night in the garage, the two group members, along with the 16 Pakistani people also detained, were taken out of the garage into a police van. The group were loaded into the vehicle at 07:00 and then were driven for one hour, after which they arrived to the border of Croatia with Bosnia. The respondent describes the conditions during the journey:
“It was no space and very little oxygen in the van. When we arrived there, the police took our belongings, made a fire and burned it. It was a horrible place, many, many things from other push-backs were lying on the ground. But luckily this time they didn’t hit us.”
Then the three Border police officers with guns and batons ordered them to go 2 km downhill through a forested area to the Bosnian side of the border. Out of fear, the group members didn’t resist and followed the orders.
“When we got in the first village, we went to a house and begged for water and bread. Then we had to walk 10-15 km to Bihać. We were very tired and it was exhausting.”