On August 1, 2021, a group of 80 people of Afghan and Pakistani nationality left Bihac (BiH) on foot to cross the Croatian border and try the so-called “game.”
The respondent says that while crossing road D1 he assumes someone must have seen them and called the police because there were many people trying to cross the road. The interviewee also reports that he saw a drone, which he assumed belonged to the Croatian police force, flying over the group which may have been used to detect them. After about 5 to 10 minutes, reportedly around 10-12 police officers arrived accompanied by dogs, described by the respondent as German shepherd type, shouting: “Don’t run, police! if you run I will free the dogs“. The respondent recalls the arrival of the police at about 6AM on August 4th.
The respondent reports that he tried to run away but that the police fired 4 shots and some warning shots into the air.
“They screamed that if we didn’t stop they were going to release the dogs. I sat down. I was very scared. They told us to follow them to the road and in the meantime they were beating us because they were angry because of our attempt to escape. There were twelve policemen plus the dogs, two of them kept beating us with sticks on our backs.”
The respondent reports that the officers were dressed in dark blue or black uniforms, which he identified as the uniform of the Croatian Interventna Jednica Policija (IJP) when shown images.
The respondent reports that once they arrived near the road roughly 10-15 minutes later, three vans arrived. The group was subsequently loaded in: 30, 25, and 25 people were put into each van which could regularly transport 6 to 8 people. The respondent reports that he told the officers that there were two minors in the group, asking that at least they would be allowed to formalize their asylum application but the police said no.
“first a van arrived (according to the applicant’s descriptions corresponding to the model VW CRAFTER PRISONER TRANSPORT), we were on a dirt road. I waited about 15 minutes. I got into the first van, but while I was already inside I heard two other vans coming. You couldn’t breathe. The police pushed us all inside. We were shouting that there was no more room but they were beating us with batons and kept shouting – inside, inside! Go inside! Thirty people in a van that would carry six to eight. […] It was terrible, there was no window, everything was dark, we had no light, no lighter, it was impossible to breathe. They were driving very fast and jerky. They were doing it on purpose.”
The interviewee reports that after 40 to 45 minutes the van stopped. The officers reportedly said the van was having problems and disembarked all 30 of them. The respondent reports that the officers driving the van were from a different police force than the one that captured them. There were probably 3 officers per van (but the interviewee could only see the ones in his van, two men and one woman).
After this, the respondent reports that they were brought to the border of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the police present burned their belongings and left the group members in a T-shirt and a pair of pants. After they reportedly threatened them with their dogs and forced them to run back over the border.
“We waited two hours there. There I spoke to an officer and told him I am good and will wait quietly still, I asked politely not to steal and burn my clothes and backpack. The policeman told me that he would not burn my things. But after they took us to the border (approximate coordinates 44°46’09.7 “N 15°46’11.4 “E 44.769348, 15.769828) they stole everything and burned all our clothes anyway, even though they promised me they wouldn’t. They made us throw everything in a hole in the ground. Everything, they only left us with a t-shirt and pants. Not our shoes. Then they told us, you have 5 seconds, run, if you don’t run we will release the dogs. We all started running terrified but I was in too much pain.”
The interviewee reports that the group had to walk about 4 hours back to Bihac, all without shoes.