At 02:00 a.m. on May 21st, the 27-year-old respondent from Afghanistan departed from the border area in Šturlić, BiH together with his sister and her husband. They reached the Bosnian-Croatian border within a few hours.
In order to cross the border, they had to cross a river where the water was approximately 1.20m deep, so that the water was reaching their bellies. Afterward, they kept on walking inside Croatian territory. In the afternoon at around 2 pm, they were walking up a dusty mountain path, close to road number 1 near the village of Podmelnica, Croatia (45.101659, 15.571043). The respondent and the two other people of the group saw a police car parked some meters away and decided not to move and wait, hoping the car would drive away.
But they were detected by three police officers in blue shirts and dark trousers (most likely border police). The respondent remembers:
“When the policeman came, they took out their guns and loaded it like putting in a bullet and shouted ‘sit down'”
When the group sat down on the ground, one of the police officers shouted at them “in a hard language” as the respondent stated, asking what they were doing there.
“We said that we have to stay out of our country and want asylum.”
The respondent described how even though they expressed their intention to seek asylum multiple times, this right was denied by the officers, who according to the memory of the respondent answered:
“Here there is no money. You cannot come here. You have to go”.
Then these officers brought the group to the main road. There, according to the respondent, two young officers from the intervention police, wearing sunglasses and dark blue shirts, and a white police van for prisoner transportation were waiting for them.
“They deported us in a big camion, like police use to catching the big mafias.”
At the bottom of the van, there was a fixture for shackles. During the ride to the border, the group suffered extreme heat in the vehicle caused by the Air Conditioning, which was turned up really high. The respondent described how the heat and the reckless driving of the vehicle by the police officers led the group to feel as if they were lacking oxygen to breathe.
“We all went to the door to try to get some air, there was no air in the car.”
When the van stopped at the place at the border, four more police officers with sunglasses and black shirts (likely of the same unit, IJP) were waiting. The respondent remembers the place of the pushback as a place with three parallel rivers (see map). One of the rivers has been formed in a way to create a sort of “pool” where the water reaches a depth of approximately 1.8m.
The police officers shouted at the three people to step out of the van. The respondent described how the group was forced to stand at the edge of the river bank and the police officers were making jokes about pushing them into the water. The respondent explained it as follows:
“First they tried to push all of us in the river, then my sister cried. Then they pushed me. I thought, ‘if I don’t go, they will push all of us in the water,’ so I entered the pool.”
Because of his inability to swim, the respondent had to grab a branch and managed to somehow cross the river by paddling with his hands. When the respondent got out of the water the police officers took their power banks and all three people’s smartphones and broke the charging plug using an iron tool which could not be described in detail by the respondent. Finally, they smashed the displays on a stone, breaking them and then handing them over again to the group.
Indicating a direction, the officers reportedly shouted “there is Bosnia, go and don’t come back!” After some meters, the respondent decided to take off his wet clothes and leave them in the woods. “They were soaked with water and too heavy to walk, I left them.” At the main road, they reached Bosnia (R403b), just before the area of Šturlić, where the group was approached by an IOM car. The IOM workers gave them clothes and indicated the direction towards Velika Kladuša. The three people had to walk back for around 6 hours until they reached Velika Kladuša at night.