“From "truck game" to forced detention - 'It was terrible. We couldn't breathe'”

  • Date and time: September 4, 2021 22:00
  • Location: Highway E65, Croatia, in the proximity of the Slovenian border
  • Coordinates: 45.375289197668, 15.017012665592
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 120 person(s), age: 20-27 years old, 15 people older than 45 and 3 minors (14-15 years old) , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan , India
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, frisking
  • Police involved: 4 Croatian border officers (with Croatian flag sewed on their sleeves), 1 van. About 10 Croatian policemen in the police station
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, photos taken, personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Anonymous

Original Report

The respondent is a 21-year-old Afghani man who left Bihać, in Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 1, 2021, to go on “game”. From Bihac, he walked for three days together with a group of 120 people and crossed the Croatian-Bosnian border in the area of the Plješivica mountains.

Once he and his group reached highway A1 close to Plitviče lakes, they all boarded a truck. This was on the evening of Saturday, September 4. The totality of 120 people-on-the-move sat in the backside of the vehicle. The group was mostly composed of men from Pakistan, though 3 men from Afghanistan and 3 Indian men also took part in the so-called “truck game”. Moreover, the respondent reported the presence of 3 unaccompanied minors (14-15 years old) and 3 couples from Sudan (3 men and 3 women).

The group drove by highway A1 in Croatia – though the respondent assumes that the truck driver took some secondary roads to avoid being detected – only to re-join highway E65 in the proximity of the Slovenian border. The conditions in the truck were described by the interviewee as very harsh, with no possibility to move, little water, and very hot temperatures.

After driving for about 3 hours in these inhumane circumstances, the truck driver got stopped by 4 Croatian border officers at 10 pm. They had 2 dogs and flashlights, which they used to inspect the back of the vehicle. The respondent describes that as soon as they opened the doors of the truck, the Croatian policemen began pushing the people outside and started to strike each of them with batons.

The 4 policemen then divided the 120 people into groups of 20 and loaded each group into a van. The respondent looks shaken as he recalls the following drive to the unknown police station. He describes that the van was extremely crammed, fresh air was lacking, and the temperature was really high. Moreover, the police were purposely driving fast and in circles, causing illness and some people to even vomit.

“Inside the van, there was too much problem…people vomit and feel so bad…”

It was around midnight when they all reached a police station, where they were detained in one single room for 24 hours without any food and water. It was once again very hot, without any circulation of air.

“It was terrible, we couldn’t breathe…my friend took his shirt off and moved it around just to make some air!”

About 10 policemen were present in the station. They frisked all the detained men and took all their belongings: cell phones, power banks, backpacks, clothes, but also documents, and money. “My friend had passport and asylum document he had in Greece 13 years ago. They take them and don’t give back. Only cash he don’t lose…because hidden in underwear.”

At about midnight on Sunday night, the policemen finally drove them all back towards Bosnian territory and dropped them in an unknown location on the mountains. Exhausted, cold, and disoriented, he then walked for about 6 hours with 10 more people and reached his starting point again, Bihać.