At the end of December/start of January, the respondent – along with a group of 50 people from Afghanistan and Pakistan – crossed from the city of Bihac in BiH into Croatia. Shortly into their journey, the group was reportedly stopped by what the respondent described as Croatian police next to Highway Road 71. The majority of the people were apprehended by the police, but the respondent was able to avoid capture and continue his journey alone.
Around 17 days later he reached the border between Slovenia and Italy.
He waited until 04:00-05:00 in the morning on approximately 16th January 2020 to cross the border, in an area described as “jungle”. The wooded area was located in the vicinity of a river, with mountain roads covered with white stones. The description by the respondent matches closely to the area of Val Rosandra. In line with this location, the respondent confirms he saw in the distance the SIOT gasol reservoirs, placed in Mattonaia (San Dorligo della Valle – https://goo.gl/maps/J11Da1RQGj49j3yu7).
SIOT gasol reservoir (Trieste Prima)
It was dark in the early hours of the morning and he reached the beginning of a more urban area, following the lights of the city in front of him. Descending towards what he described as the “small city”, he encountered a person that was jogging. He stopped next to a bus stop, which is likely to have been Bagnoli (“terminal bus station”- https://goo.gl/maps/g8s1VDxatxWAfP4J9) with the intention of taking the bus and reaching Trieste.
At the bus stop, the respondent was approached by a patrol of what he referred to as Italian police (car and two officers). He was then taken into the police car, described as having tinted glass in the back where he was seated. Here the two Italian officers reportedly made clear that due to him being an adult and not a minor, they would deliver him back to the Slovenian police. The respondent states that he was directly removed to Slovenia (“I have been directly deported to Slovenia”). He reports that he was not taken to an Italian police station for identification, and neither picture nor fingerprints were taken.
From the bus stop where he had been caught, the police car left towards an unknown direction and after nearly half an hour stopped. The officers then exited the vehicle for a period of time and then returned and started the engine again. After around 2 hours of driving (which included several more stops), the vehicle reportedly arrived and stopped at the border with Slovenia.
The respondent described the location as an official border crossing between ITA-SLO. There were four officers, described by the respondent as Slovenian police, with vehicles waiting when he exited the Italian police car. The respondent was then transported from the Italian car to what was described as a Slovenian police vehicle and driven into the Slovenian interior to what the respondent described as a “camp”.
The respondent spent around 3 hours at the so-called “camp” and was then taken to a police station where he was reportedly held alongside three other people-on-the-move. Fingerprints were taken and, referring to the identification system, the Slovenian police told the respondent that it was not the first time that he was identified in Slovenian territory. Three or four months before the respondent reports that he had been caught by Slovenian police and removed to Croatia and then BiH. For the other three persons, it was their first time of being identified.
The respondent expressed the intention to remain in Slovenia and claim asylum, even though he shared that he was also aware what was happening to him (having been chain pushed back on other occasions). Referring to this he stated:
“They make me the same game before”
In the Slovenian police station, the officers issued a paper to the four members of the group, where each person’s personal data was recorded. Then the group of four people was taken and loaded into what was described as a police vehicle (“close car”), driven by two officers in uniform consistent with the Slovenian authorities.
The vehicle reportedly arrived near the border with Croatia and the group was unloaded by the Slovenian police and transferred to the Croatian police. The respondent was not able to establish the number of police forces around him, because they urged him to disembark quickly and with his head down. The officers reportedly shouted:
The group of four detainees were taken inside what the respondent referred to as a Croatian police van which then transported them to a Croatian police station. At the station they went through an identification process inside a room one by one. Each had their fingerprints taken and they were photographed and identified on police record (name, family name, and country of origin).
Reportedly, in this station there were many other people-on-the-move in detention and the respondent noted the presence of at least three police vans and an Iranian family being held there. The respondent then described being removed from the station and loaded into a police van. This was alongside the three people he had been detained with in Slovenia and another 6 persons from the Croatian police station. The respondent observed that at the same time other transit groups were being loaded into the back of other vans.
The van left and drove for approximately 4-5 hours, eventually arriving to the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here the respondent reported the presence of what he described as Croatian police officers with dogs. The officers reportedly took some of the clothes and the bags that the people carried and set them on fire. The respondent alleges that during the violence that followed he was particularly targeted because the officers said they recognized him from a report video that he had given to international journalists which contained information about his experiences of violence along the route.
The respondent reports that these officers, identified by him as Croatian polic, beat the group and burned their possessions. After this, the group was reportedly pushed back into Bosnian territory. The area in which they were pushed back meant they had to walk for around 3 hours before re-entering the city of Bihac from a north west direction.
Notes on previous pushback experience:
The respondent, who at the time of the interview was waiting in a squat in the city of Bihac, shares that he had tried “the game” (border crossings) at least 10 times. All of these attempts had reportedly resulted in a pushback to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On a first occasion, he tried “the game” with a group of 100 people, the majority of which were reportedly traced by Croatian police and pushed back to BiH. In total, the respondent reports that he was subjected to 4 removals from Croatia, 4 from Slovenia, and 2 from Italy. On another occasion, the first in which he was able to cross the Italian-Slovenian border, the group with which he was traveling (around 35 people) was reportedly captured by the Italian police in close proximity of a bus stop. 15 people had their asylum request observed and were able to remain in Italian territory, while the others were sent back to Slovenia. Here, his younger brother was able to ask for asylum in Slovenia, while he and the rest of the group were reportedly removed to Croatia and then to BiH.