A group of thirty-five men were pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia on the morning of September 2, 2020. The group had departed from Bosnia a few days before. The two primary respondents from this group were seventeen years old and twenty-five years old from Bangladesh; the other ages in the group ranged from ages fifteen to thirty-two, also from Bangladesh. All the members of the group had been pushed back on several occasions, and described their experiences of attempting to cross through Croatia as a cycle of “catch, deport, catch, deport”.
At around 2:00 am on the morning of September 2nd, the group was walking in the jungle a few kilometers outside of Zagreb. When ten members at the forefront of the group exited and crossed a small road, three Croatian police spotted them and shouted at them to stop. The group first attempted to flee, but the officers began to fire shots in the air. Because the group was scared upon hearing the shots, many of them stopped and immediately sat down instead of attempting to avoid detention. However, the respondent said that several members of the group continued to run away upon hearing the shots, but they were subsequently detained after discovering that two more officers were stationed a short distance away in the direction they were running. The respondents said that the officers in this initial apprehension kicked them at some point during detention, but were unclear as to when in the interaction this occurred. They described them as wearing blue uniforms, and thought that they were “normal” Croatian police.
After the entirety of the group was seated, the police inquired as to their country of origin, and then searched them and took their powerbanks, phones, jackets, and the rest of their possessions.They were not taken to a police station or asked to sign any other paperwork or complete any administrative procedures, and after a short wait they were transported in three blue and white vans to the Bosnian-Croatian border. The respondents approximated that each van contained about 12 people.
They described that the van was “jumping” during the journey, suggesting that the driving of the officers was likely intentionally erratic. The conditions of the car (no windows, many people) made it difficult to breathe. During the journey, the group pounded on the sides of the car screaming “Oh my god, save us, save us!”. The trip took around five hours, but the respondents said that around two of those hours were not actually spent advancing towards Bosnia; on several different occasions, the police officers would stop the van for no apparent reason, lock them inside and detain them there for some time. This was especially terrifying to the boys because of the lack of air in the vehicle. The respondents believed that this was done as another form of punishment.
They were taken near the border north of Banja Luka, where they reported that a different set of police officers wearing all black with black masks were waiting for them. When they arrived, those in the respondents’ particular van were taken out of the car in groups of four or five. Once they had exited the van, the police officers beat them one by one as the remaining three or four watched and those left in the van listened. One respondent reported that while the officer was beating him, the officer screamed at him that
“Germany, France says they don’t need refugees, and the European Union don’t want refugees, therefore I will beat you, go back motherfucker (sic)”.
After crossing back into Bosnia, the group traveled to Bihac in hopes of entering the camp there. At the time of the interview, one of the respondents and others in their group were still barefoot, several of them with significant foot injuries and a noticeable limp. One respondent expressed his belief that if “they not give punishment (sic), not take our food, they give me one chance, the situation will be better.”