A family of four in transit, including two small children, had hired a smuggler, whom they paid 3500 euros in total for transport from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Italy. They began their journey from Bihac (BiH), crossing the border into Croatia, from where they were transported by car and taken to a forest area near Zagreb. The family where supposed to wait in this location for further transport. The family waited in the forest for two days, without enough food, water and warm clothes. The conditions were poor and it started to rain heavily.
The father of the family, tried to get in contact with their transport and he was told to go to the city center of Zagreb to apply for asylum. The smuggler said that they could safely apply for asylum in Zagreb because of their family status which would ensure them access to asylum procedure. The smuggler also told them that his other clients, twelve single men, also managed to apply for asylum in Croatia with a positive decision, so the family should not be concerned.
On 1st.September 2018, the family went to the asylum center in Zagreb, which the father made referred to as “Pinica” (Porin), and asked the staff for help to lodge an asylum claim, and to accommodate them. But the staff called the police, who took the whole family to a police station. They arrived at the station at 21:00 (on the 1st of September). The family stayed in the police station until 02:00 on the 2nd September 2019.
The police officers took photos of the family and took their fingerprints. According to the father of the family, two police officers were acting aggressively towards him and intimidating him in front of his wife and children. He shared that one police officer also tricked the family by telling them that they could access the asylum procedure, which was later found to be a lie because they were deported back to BiH.
“I was sitting on the chair, and the police kept kicking into it and shouting at me: ‘What is your name? Where did you come from?’ They kept laughing at me, saying: ‘Oh yeah, everybody is coming from Bosnia now. Fuck you!’ They were using very bad words. I said to them that I wanted to apply for asylum in Croatia. But they said: ‘No asylum for you.’ But other police officers said ‘Okay, asylum for you, just wait.’ But they deported us back.”
At 02:00, the whole family was transported by van to the Bosnian border, close to the official border crossing near Velika Kladusa. The police told them to get out of the car and then took their 100 Bosnian Marks (the last money they had) and their mobile phones. Afterwards, the officers shouted at the whole family to go back to Bosnia.
The father of the family explained that his two small children were really tired, but the officer were calling them names and scaring them throughout the deportation. The family lost all their money and did not have any other way to proceed to Italy, where they wanted to apply for asylum. They also lost their place in formal temporary accomodation center “Hotel Sedra” (BiH), because they were away for more than three days. At the time of recording this interview, the family were sleeping outside in the in makeshift camp at Trnovi, in Velika Kladusa.