The pushback took place on October 22, 2020 right next to Velika Kladusa (NW Bosnia). The concerned group consisted of three families, two from Afghanistan and one from Iran (19 people in total). There were five women and at least five minors present, one of them only three years old. The two Afghan families started their journey together and were later joined by the Iranian family in the police van on the way back to the Bosnian border.
The two Afghan families started walking at around 05:00 to 06:00. on the same day in the forest next to the border area where they were staying. The interviewee estimated that they were just 10 minutes from the Croatian border, when they encountered a group of nine/ten young men. The group were wearing dark clothes and covering their faces with scarfs. They made the families stop and told them:
“Stop, stop: give me everything from you.”
When the families refused to hand over their belongings to the men, the masked group struck the male adults of the families. They also used a knife, cutting two of the members, one on his upper arm, the other on his belly.
“They also give me a cut. They cut me with the knives.”
The interviewee described how the women and the children were very scared by the masked group and started crying. After the knife attack, the families decided to give over their possessions. Their bags, with all their food, water and money in it, their jackets and their shoes. The respondent thinks that their assailants were also members of the transit community on their way through Croatia. They were carrying back-packs and looked “like the migrants” to him. He also describes recognizing their accents in English.
Even though they were left scared, injured and without shoes and jackets the families decided to keep on walking into Croatian territory. After another four to five hours walk, they finally encountered two police officers in the woods, who told them to stop and sit down.
“The police ask us: ‘Why is you don’t have bags?’ We spoke: ‘This is all we have left. Please help us.’ […] We say: ‘please see us. We don’t have nothing. Watch the weather. It is so cold. How we can go? Without shoes? We need your help.’ They just say: ‘no, you have to go’”
“I don’t know why they don’t understand us. They just say us: ‘you have to go back to Bosnia’”
The police officers called two colleagues who soon after arrived with a big white police van. All the family members were forced to get into the van and were then driven one hour back to the Bosnian border next to Velika Kladusa (in the Buhaca area on the Croatian side). Midway through this journey (after 30 minutes drive) the van stopped at the side of an unknown road and another family, consisting of eight people from Iran, were forced into the van.
When the vehicle arrived at the Croatian/Bosnian border, at midnight, all the families had to leave the van and walk over the border.
“The say: Go! Fast, Fast!”
Afterwards the pushed-back group walked another six hours through the night, without either shoes, jackets, food or water until they reached the place they were staying in.
(Respondent pictured, having had his shoes stolen)