In this case, a group of 58 people from Afghanistan were stopped in the Italian city of Trieste by the Italian police, around 11:00 in the morning on the 17th of July 2020. Of this group, 24 managed to escape, whereas 34 were caught by the officers. The group of concern in this report consisted of 34 Afghan males, of which 17 minors and 17 adults, aged 19-21.
Approximately 15 Italian police officers, two of which were female officers, with two police vans and one police car, stopped the group which was walking on the street, heading to a bus station. According to the description given by the respondent, some of the officers were wearing blue uniforms and others were wearing beige and black uniforms. The officers ordered to the group to sit on the side of the street, in a “sunny area”. The respondent described the police behaviour as “respectful”, nonetheless, police forced the group of respondents to stay silent for more or less two hours, by ordering them “not to speak between each other”. The officers also checked the contents of the respondents’ backpacks.
After waiting for two hours, a vehicle came and the group was loaded on it. Two of the 15 police officers were with them. The bus drove for around 20 minutes and stopped at a place which the respondent describes as a sort of camp, with gates and fences, close to which or in which there was a police station.
“Behind of camp it was one police station”, says the respondent.
Once inside the police station, the whole group of respondents was checked by two doctors, who “checked our all body and corona”. After this, the group was divided and went through administrative procedures at the police station. The respondent had the fingerprints of all fingers of both hands taken, as well as pictures of his face. He was also asked for personal information such as name, surname, date of birth, country of origin, mother’s and father’s name.
The respondent described interacting with with a translator who spoke Pashto and another unidentified Italian man, with whom the respondent had a long oral interview, which lasted around 1 and a half hours, according to his memory. The unidentified Italian man had a handgun but no official uniform, so the respondent could not determine if he was a police officer or not.
“They ask all my problems what we were in Afghanistan and how I come from Afghanistan so I was like big interview”, says the respondent.
As the respondent refers, several times he asked for asylum to the translator but the translator did not communicate this to the other man, as well as many other questions or requests which the respondent made to him. “They do not give answer, just they laugh”, says the respondent. Afterwards, the respondent was given “five” documents written in Italian, whose contents he was unable to understand because of the language, and was forced to sign them quickly.
“When we signed the documents we don’t had time for look to paper, we signed and when we signed one paper translator told us “this is asylums paper” and after we signed one another paper he told us “this paper is from illegal that you come to Italy” [and so on]”, says the respondent.
After the whole procedure, the whole group was reunified in the afternoon, at around 14:00 in a big tent placed at the back of the police station. There, the group got some food and had rest for around four hours; since it was early in the afternoon, the temperature inside the tent was extremely hot. Later in the evening, at around 18:00, a group of approximately 25 Italian police officers wearing blue uniforms and black and beige uniforms came with the translator to the tent and woke the group up. The respondents were asked if they wanted to remain in Italy and all of them answered affirmatively, but only the 17 minors and two adults who previously had had their fingerprints taken in Greece were allowed to stay. All the remaining group-members, 15 people in total, were then divided into five groups of three, loaded in five police cars and left the station.
After two hours travelling, the vehicles arrived to the Italian border with Slovenia at which point the Italian police officers handed the group-members over to Slovenian authorities. That is, on the 17th of July 2020 around 20:00, the Italian police pushed the group of respondents back to Slovenia, by directly consigning them to Slovenian police officers. There, the group-members were loaded on the Slovenian police’s cars and transported to a police station. The group-members did not know where they were travelling to. At the station there were lots of police officers, male and female, wearing blue uniforms. The respondent describes as “bad” the treatment received at the police station.
At the station, the group was divided, and the respondent remained alone with two other friends and two police officers, one male and one female, who wore blue uniforms. Under the presence of a Slovenian translator who spoke Pashto, the three group-members underwent another oral interview on “how we reached the country and personal information”. Also in this case, the respondent asked to the officers “give me stay” [asylum], but he received no answer. Then, they had their fingerprints taken as well as pictures of their faces and were asked to sign some “four” documents in Slovenian language, which they could not understand. After this, the respondents were asked to undress and, completely naked, were frisked by the male police officer for around five minutes, then they could dress up again.
“They said me take off your everything and told me set up and stand up, I don’t know why”, refers the respondent, who also says that he felt harassed by the officer.
The whole group of 15 respondents spent the night at the police station, sleeping in a foul-smelling and cold cell where there were no beds and no blankets. Not receiving water from the officers, the respondent recalled having to drink water from the toilet which was inside the cell. At the police station, the Slovenian officers withheld the documents which the Italian police had released to the respondents.
Around 7:00 in the morning, 4 male police officers wearing blue uniforms loaded the respondents in two police vans without giving them any information on where they were heading to. After four hours travelling, the vans reached the border to Croatia and the respondents were handed over to seven Croatian officers, among which there was “a bad woman”, according to the respondent. With this exchange of people, the Slovenian officers pushed the group of respondents back to Croatia by directly consigning them to the Croatian police, on the 18th of July 2020, around 11.00 in the morning. In a border police building at the border, the officers withheld the respondents’ money, phones and cigarettes. Since some of his friends did not understand English and could not understand the officers’ orders, the respondent translated for them but the female police officer accused him to be “the leader” [the smuggler] of the group. Accordingly, he was ordered to undress and frisked.
After this, the whole group was loaded into one police van and went on a six-hour long travel which ended up at the border to Bosnia Herzegovina. An additional two other police cars and all the seven officers travelled to the border with the van. The van had no windows and it was impossible for the respondents to see outside. The air at the back of the van became extremely hot and the respondents had no water with them. The respondent also reports the police officers driving recklessly. The van did not make any stop until it reached the border to Bosnia, in the late afternoon on the 18th of July 2020.
The respondents stepped out of the van one by one and were told “you go back to Bosnia, don’t come again”. Some of the respondents were beaten up by the officers who used their batons and then, around 19:00, the group was pushed back to Bosnia Herzegovina.
For maybe ten kilometers the group of respondents walked under the pouring rain in the jungle and after many hours walking they reached the city of Velika Kladusa, BiH and then moved to the city of Bihac, BiH, on the 19th of July 2020.