“They treat us just like animals.”
On the 1st of May, the respondent and his group of 70 to 80 people started to walk from the forest in Bihac in direction of Croatia with the goal to make it to Italy. It took them five to six hours until they reached the Croatian border.
For the respondent, it was important to describe the difficulties that they were facing while walking. First, the respondent mentions that it is very difficult to pass the mountain, as the way is very steep and there normally is no hiking trail. Additionally, he stresses that most of the persons were carrying backpacks weighing 20-25kg with them. The group also had difficulties finding clean water on the way. He explains that it is very risky to access freshwater places, as there is a high probability that the police would find them there. Therefore, the group members were drinking water from dirty stagnant waters.
„We don ́t have enough water. We take water from the jungle. We are like animals, drink water. We take water and drink water to save our lives.“
During their entire journey, the group was facing bad weather conditions. Due to that, they rested on their 10th day under a plastic tarp, to protect themselves from the snowfall. During their rest, they were detected by the police. According to the respondent, the police officers arrived firing bulls into the air, saying that they are the Croatian police and that nobody should run away. In total eight police officers surrounded the group. During the apprehension, the police did not use any direct physical violence.
“Last time they did not beat us. Most time they beat us. With the long sticks […]’”.
After, the group was forced into different police vans. Up to 15 people had to enter in one car. The respondent described that they were treated “just like animals”. They did not have enough space and some people even had to vomit into the car during the ride to the Croatian police station. At the police station, the group had to indicate their country of origin, their ages, and their names. Photos were taken from their faces. According to the respondent they also had to give their signature, without knowing for what it would be used. The police officers communicated with the group in English. No translator was present to translate the ongoings for group members who did not speak the language.
The group members had to take off their clothes and hand them over to the officers. Also, their phones, power banks, and their money were taken from them and burned together with the clothes, bags, and the remaining food.
“They take all our stuff. Just like shoes, jackets, trousers. They say ‘You have any gun, any knife?’ I speak ‘I am not terrorist, I don’t have knife, I don’t have gun. Just food. We are migrants, we are not terrorists here.”
The group members spent some hours (the exact number of hours could not be stated exactly by the respondent) at the police station, until other police officers, in black uniforms and ski masks, picked them up. Due to their uniforms, it can be assumed that these officers belong to the Croatian Intervention Police. The respondent stated that normally the police, which detects them while walking in Croatia, are not wearing ski masks. Only those police officers, who bring them back to the Bosnian border usually wear ski masks.
“In the jungle side they don’t cover. And the deport time they cover their mouth. I don’t recognizes his mouth.”
It was already dark when the police took them to the border.
“They deport in nighttime and nighttime nobody sees it. They don ́t deport daytime. And nighttime nobody can see us. They beat and say go back to Bosnia.”
Although the officers asked them where they lived, and the group stated that they stayed in Bihac, BiH, they were pushed back at the border near Kladusa, BiH. About 50 kilometers from Bihac.
“We got deported to the Kladusha side. It ́s too far. We walked all day and then we reached here (Bihac). Nighttime they deport and morning time we walk and after 12-15 hours we reached here.”
The respondent complained that the police officers did not give them bus tickets to reach Bihac. Therefore, the group had to reach Bihac on foot. As the police took all their clothes away, the group had to walk in underwear. On their way to Bihac, they met people who provided them with clothes and shoes.