The respondent started his journey with a group of 13 persons. They left Bosnia and Herzegovina in mid-April 2021 in the region of Lipa. After some 15 or 20 days of walking through Croatia and Slovenia, the group managed to reach Trieste, Italy, without being detected by the authorities. They settled in what the respondent called an “unofficial camp” in the area of Trieste. In total, there were around 30 people in the “camp”, and the respondent’s group stayed there for three days.
In the morning of 4 or 5 May, four policemen arrived to the site. They were wearing light-blue uniforms and each had a pistol on his belt. The policemen separated four persons, including the respondent, from the group of 13. For the respondent it was not clear why the officers picked those four men. The four were from Afghanistan and between 20 and 25 years old. The policemen told the respondent to hand them over his hiking shoes and did not return them, leaving him only with his light shoes.
The respondent said “asyl”, but the policemen ignored this. Instead, they told the group of four to get into the rear part of a white van. There were neither seats nor windows in the rear part. After an estimated hour of driving, the van stopped at the border crossing on the road E61 between Pesek (Italy) and Kozina (Slovenia) (coordinates 45.62307938388053, 13.90269667130233).
The Italian policemen talked to five Slovenian officers who were wearing camouflage suits and dark-blue hats. The transit group was then handed over to the Slovenian officers. They received food and water and had again to enter a white van with no seats. After an estimated 4 or 5 hours of driving, the van stopped on a big road in the forest. The respondent estimated that it was around noon or 1 p.m. The Slovenian officers pointed into the forest and told the group to cross the border to Croatia by walking into that direction.
After a walk of 2 or 3 hours into Croatia, the group was apprehended by 7 policemen who were wearing blue uniforms. The policemen had a white car and a white van, on both of which was written “Policija”. The group was told to get into the van and was transported to a small police station. The transport took 2 or 3 hours. No settlement was visible from the police station. In the station, there were ca. 12 police officers (including the 7 who had apprehended the group), all of them with blue uniforms. One of them was a woman.
“In the police station, they beat us one by one.”
The respondent explained that he was first punched into the face, then the officers hit his hands and his backside with a baton. The same kind of violence was exerted against the three other members of his group.
The respondent told that they were kept in the police station for three days. They had access to a toilet but had to sleep on the bare floor, without blankets. They were given neither food nor water during the whole time. They didn’t dare to ask for it because they were afraid that such a request would just incite more violence. When one of the four men started to smoke a cigarette (the men still had their belongings), a police officer approached the respondent who was the only group member who spoke some English. The officer said “Why your friend smoke?” and punched the respondent in the face.
During their apprehension, the men had to sign a paper that included their name, their father’s name and their country of origin. The paper was in Croatian, no translator was present. The officers also took pictures of the men.
In the afternoon of the third day at the station (6 or 7 May), the group was taken to the rear part of a white van, again without seats. 7 of the policemen accompanied the transport. The driver of the van braked and accelerated very jerkily, and the aircondition was very cold. The drive took some 20 to 30 minutes.
The van stopped on a small road in the forest. On one side, there was a bigger road, and on the other side there was a stream. When they had got out of the van, the men had to take off their shirts and shoes, thus left only with their trousers. They had also to hand over their 4 phones, powerbanks and their money (ca. 50 Euros). The policemen put these belongings into a plastic bag and kept them.
Then the policemen told them to lie down on the ground and hit them, one by one, with a baton on their backsides and their hands. According to the respondent, they were hit harder and longer than in the police station. He estimated the beating to have lasted around 10 minutes. Then the police officers told the men to cross the stream which the respondent recognised to be the Korana, marking the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The water reached the chest of the men and was very cold. The policemen were laughing while the men had to cross the stream.
After some 5 minutes of walking on the Bosnian side, the men reached Sturlic and continued walking to Bihać. Some 8 hours later, in the night of 7 or 8 May, they reached Bihać.