The respondents in this case, a group of four men aged 25, 27, 28, 33 from Algeria, were pushed back to Croatia from the Vič asylum processing center in Ljubljana, Slovenia on the 3rd of August 2020, around 1:00 pm in the afternoon. According to the respondent’s testimony, a large, unspecified number of other people having different origins (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco…) suffered the same destiny that day.
“There is no specific reason for deport”, says the respondent, “some people stay, some people are back”.
The group of respondents had reached the Ljubljana camp the day before, on the 2nd of August 2020, after a 13-day-long trip in the woods from Bosnia Herzegovina. As the respondent recalled, once in the camp, the group on the move spent the night in a cell and, in the morning, it was informed that their asylum request had been rejected and that the whole group would have been deported back to Croatia. “Deport”, says the respondent, referring to the announcement made by the police in the morning of the 3rd of August 2020. According to the respondent, the group was told that
“at the moment, Maghrebi have no right to ask for asylum”.
Accordingly, around 1:00 pm, three Slovenian male police officers wearing official uniforms loaded the group of four respondents in a police van and drove them to the border to Croatia. The respondent did not know where they were heading to and is unable to recall how long the travel in the van lasted. Once they reached the Croatian border, the respondents were handed over to an unspecified number of Croatian police officers who, at the border police station, withheld their phones and powerbanks, money, backpacks and sleeping bags. Then, the officers drove the respondents to a nearby police station using a police van.
At the police station, the respondents interacted with three male police officers wearing official uniforms, one of whom “was looking at them”, while the other two were carrying out all the administrative procedures. The respondents had their fingerprints taken and were asked for personal information such as name, surname, age, country of origin, father’s and mother’s name, which [migration] route they came from, how much money they had with them et cetera. In addition, the respondents were shown some pictures portraying other “refugees” [people on the move] and were asked if they knew them. As the respondent refers, he recognized some faces but he did not tell anything to the police, fearing that they could beat him if he had refused to answer further questions on those people’s account. The respondents were also given some documents in French and Arabic, which they did not have time to properly read, and were forced to sign them.
“If you do not sign up, they beat you at the border”, says the respondent.
At the police station there was a translator, whom the respondent describes as “racist”, who made them answer “stupid questions”. As the respondent says, the translator asked the group “what do you do here” and told them to “go back to your country”. The respondents asked for asylum but the officers told them that “that’s not possible”. Since he hadn’t had food since the day before, the respondent asked the officers if they could give him and his friends food. One officer asked him for money and the respondent gave him some 20 euros he had saved, with which the officer bought some food and cigarettes. According to the respondent, the officer cheated on the real price and withheld the change.
The group remained at the police station until 8:00 pm that evening, according to the respondent’s perception. Afterwards, the group was loaded in a police van which had no windows, so that the respondent could not see outside. The three male police officers who were driving the van gave them no explanation on what was happening and the respondents did not know where they were travelling to. The respondent reports the officers to drive recklessly.
Once they reached the border to Bosnia Herzegovina (approximate coordinates 45.215730, 15.924467, HR), late at night, the group stepped out of the van one by one, under the pouring rain. At both the right and left side of the back of the van, there were four officers with ski masks, for a total of eight, who beat the group up using the tasers and the batons. The group were hit on their head and face and one member of the group lost some teeth due to the beatening.
“We had fear”, says the respondent, “you see your friends beaten up and you hear them screaming… I wait for a lawyer who can help me for justice, but no one [is ready to help]”.
The respondent started to run in the dark to escape from the officers, in the opposite direction of them, that is in the direction to Bosnia Herzegovina, crossing a river by foot without seeing anything and ignoring where he was going. While escaping, he turned around calling for his friend and the officers answered back “yes yes”, but the respondent understood that it was the police and did not head back for him. Instead, he continued screaming his name and calling him until his friend reached him.
“I kept on calling my friend, I called his name “M., M.!”, I could hear him screaming. They [the police] surrounded him and beat him up so much that he cannot move anymore. It’s horrible, there’s no humanity, if only you could see how they treated us, as animals…”, says the respondent referring to the experience and treatment he suffered at the hands of the police.
The group of respondents reached the city of Velika Kladusa, BiH, on the 4th of August 2020, after walking in the woods for many kilometers. The respondent refers to have suffered a similar push back from Croatia to Bosnia Herzegovina in February: also in that case, he was forced to cross a river, regardless of the cold weather and the snow.