On Wednesday the 10th of November, a Kurdish family from Iraq was stopped in Croatia while walking along a path close to the Bosnian border. The Kurdish family of 6 –mother, father, one daughter aged 20 years, one son aged 18 years, one daughter aged 9 years, and another son aged 7 years –had left the Bosnian village of Šturlić the day before, and they were walking into a forest when they reached a path and started to follow it. The respondent – the 18-year-old son claimed that around 9.30 am, they saw four police officers in a car (a white Volkswagen Golf with blue stripes and “Polcija” written on its sides) driving towards them. The respondent related that the family did not try to hide when they saw police approaching them. Instead, he approached the police, and once the driver stopped the car, he tried to ask for help. He affirmed that he also started talking about asylum requests. Still, they immediately told him: “We are not here for that, we just can help you with legal rights, with how you can legally get to Croatia,” so the respondent replied:
“Can you help me with legally getting inside with no documents?” and they said, “No, it’s impossible”
The respondent then told them, “I’m already in Croatia, and I want to ask for asylum”. They replied that they were not the right people to be asked to, but they would call another person to help them deal with their asylum request. The respondent described the four police officers as ordinary police, wearing trousers like jeans and blue jackets. He stated that he saw the badge of one of them while adjusting his jacket, but he did not recognize the features of the badge because the police officer immediately hid it beneath the vest.
After ten minutes, a policewoman and a policeman arrived in a white van. The respondent claimed they were wearing very dark blue suits with pistols and batons hanging from their belts. According to the description, the uniforms seemed like the IJP-Interventna Jednica Policija, but the interviewee could not precisely remember which writings were on the uniforms. Before putting the family inside the van, the two police officers confiscated their phones and then drove them until the pinned point in the map (rough coordinates: 45°07’30.9 “N 15°46’54.0 “E)
The respondent claimed that the two police officers drove them for almost an hour on a road that would only normally only take 20 minutes to arrive at the border. They moved around a lot, following an impervious path. The minivan was white with blue stripes on its sides. There were no seats and no windows in its back, just two small sheet-covered windows at the bottom of the van. There was also a metallic net separating the backside to the driver’s seat. He remembered seeing a small camera (like a GoPro) pointing at them from one corner, and he recalled seeing a rifle leaning on the front seats. Once the doors were closed, the family could not look outside. The respondent said that the two police officers were quiet during the trip, and sometimes they were telling the family, “We are taking you where you can ask for asylum”. He also added:
They never say anything until they push you back to the border. They don’t tell you “we will give you asylum” either, they just stay quiet. So we stayed just quiet, and they brought us back to the Bosnian Jungle. In general, they never tell you “I will push you back” until you go to the border. You just keep waiting for asylum until you know that you’ve been pushed back again in the jungle.
After what seemed like an hour, at around 11 am, the group was brought close to the Bosnian border where 6 more police officers were waiting for them in the forest. The respondent described them as wearing green, olive-drab uniforms. They were waiting in their cars, one white golf with blue stripes in the center and one white van. The family was then forced to walk into the forest, and the respondent recalled being escorted over the border. He states that the police were following them 100-200 meters beyond the border, into Bosnian territory. Once they reached Bosnia-Herzegovina, one police officer told them:
Ok, from now on you can go. Go to Bosnia and don’t try to come back.
Then they left the family in the middle of the jungle where there were no particular landmarks nearby. The family was thus forced to head back to Šturlić, which they reached after about 7 hours of walking.