The respondent is a 24-years-old man from Afghanistan. He was traveling with 3 other Afghani men, who left Bihać and crossed into Croatian territory in the proximity of Korenička, HR (44.743673, 15.707774). They kept walking, following road 1 in the direction of Plitviče lakes. As they stopped close to Bijela Reka to fill their water bottles, they spotted Croatian special forces (wearing olive green, army-like uniforms) and had decided to hide from them and try to run away. At this point, they entered the nearby forest (“jungle“) and then headed northwest for 10 whole days. They kept following road 23 up to the junction with highway E71 – in the north of Jezerane and at the beginning of the Karlovac county. (Approximate coordinates: 45.100670, 15.229496) The respondent describes this motorway as particularly dangerous for People on the Move as it is patrolled by special commando forces with a specific shark emblem on their uniforms.
The transit group then kept walking further north through the forest between road 23 and highway E71 in the direction of Karlovac, up to the point where highway E65 meets motorway 3. They were roughly in this area at 10 am on September 6th, when 6 officers – most likely belonging to the aforementioned special forces – stopped the group of Afghani men.
They were ordered to sit down and take their shoes off, so they could not escape. The respondent explains how these 6 special force officers addressed him right away and asked him to open his bag. Once they saw a knife in it, which he was carrying in case he encounters dangers and needs to defend himself. He further explained that their journey normally includes many risks and the dangers of the forest like bears and other wild animals. When the authorities saw the knife they assumed he was the “boss”, or the smuggler of the group. He then describes how one very tall and muscular officer hit him on the right side of his face, injuring his jaw. They then took all of their mobile phones, their power banks, and even their food. The 4 people-on-the-move were forced to sit on the ground for about an hour after the special force men took their pictures. They were allowed to drink a little bit of water, but not to eat.
At around 11 am, the special force drove them to an unknown police station. The Croatian border police then loaded them on a van and picked up 6 more men from Turkey. The van was packed and it was difficult to breathe in. The police were driving fast and recklessly for about 2 hours. People felt sick and started vomiting. At 1 pm, they were finally dropped off near the Bosnian border shortly after passing the Željava Air Base. They then had to walk for 5 hours to reach Bihać again.
During the interview, the respondent shared his feelings about the incident and his particular situation:
“The Croatian police are not bad. It’s just their job, I get it. It’s my mistake, I am the one who is breaking the law. But if there was peace in my country, I would never do something illegal. I wish they understood this.”
4 days after the described pushback, the respondent still has a very swollen cheek and strong pain in his jaw. He can hardly eat and has not received proper medical care.