On the 3rd of September a 28-year-old man from Afghanistan, along with his 26-year-old wife and their 18-month-old daughter began a transit attempt through Croatia. They left Borići Camp in Bihać at around 5:00 pm and walked from there to the mountain which marks the border. The respondent described how dangerous the forest was, saying that it was easy to slip and fall, and that there are wild animals like wolves, wild boars and bears. “You can’t go directly, you have to change your way. We had women and children, it takes time.”
They had been walking for more than 12 hours when they arrived close to the Croatia’s D1 road1. This is where the Croatia border police approached and apprehended the group. The respondent described that it was difficult to count the officers as they were hiding in the trees, but that there were around 8 or 10 officers, all of whom were male and wore uniforms consisting of blue shirts. The officers searched everyone. The respondent described that male officers searched his wife and his baby, looking for hidden money.
“They searched her whole body”.
The officers in blue shirts stole the phones and money from the group, the reporter had 2 phones and some money taken. They were then all taken to a police station where the respondent described approximately 50 to 60 people were kept in a single windowless room for between 4 and 5 hours. They expressed to the officers that they wanted to claim asylum and the officers said “Sorry, can’t” or did not reply at all. The family was then handed over to the officers in all-black uniforms. The family, along with 2 more families and 5 single men, were taken in the back of one van together. There were around 20 people including 3 babies and 2 older minors. The van was like a prison van, it had no windows or light. They were in the van for around 3 hours, the conditions were so poor that people became dizzy and ill.
After some time, this vehicle arrived at the Bosnian border near a forest in the vicinity of Velika Kladuša. The officers, 6 or 7 men dressed in black with a police dog, took the remaining belongings from the groups and burnt them. The respondent described having two bags burnt – one with food, diapers and clothes for his baby daughter, and the other with clothes for him and his wife. The officers burnt these bags, and then told them to walk across the border. If they did not start walking, they would use the dog to scare people to walk. They had no GPS to tell them where they were or where they should go. They slept in the jungle until it was light so that they could find their way. They started on the long journey back to Bihać – around 50km – which took two days, they slept briefly on the way.