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"We spent all the night in that room without sleeping, we couldn't breathe ..."

Date & Time 2020-03-03
Location Harmica, Croazia
Reported by No Name Kitchen
Coordinates 45.891934, 15.6849318
Pushback from Slovenia, Croatia
Pushback to Serbia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 3 - 60
Group size 32
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved unknown
Violence used theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved 15 Croatian border officers, 3 police vans

On the evening of March 2nd, a group of 32 people (including a pregnant woman and 12 children) from different countries (Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan), entered into the cargo of a freight train. Their intention was to travel with the train closer into the European Union.

The group entered the train at around 10:00 pm on the 2nd, and divided themselves into sub-groups of around five or six people in each train-car.

In the train-car where the respondent was hidden, there were five people (including his daughter of 5 years old, his wife and another minor of 12 years old) while in the wagon of his friend there were six people (including two minors of 15 and 10 years old respectively, as well as an adult woman).

The respondent and his family remained hidden in the train-car under a pile of clay for around five hours, waiting for the train to leave. At around 3:00 am, the train began to move towards the Croatian city of Tovarnik. At the Croatian border, some police officers boarded the train in search of hidden people but could not find them.

The train later arrived in Dobova (SLO) at sometime between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm and stopped. The groups remained hidden during this time.

At 9:30 pm, special police (described as wearing dark blue uniforms, yellow vests and yellow helmets) climbed atop of the train car with two dogs. At that time, they found the respondent and the rest of his group in the same wagon. The officers told them to get off of the train and to wait near a wall in front of the train. They obeyed without resistance and waited on the wall for a while.

“We were controlled on sight by a soldier and around 10 policemen. They searched us and searched our entire luggage like we were criminals”.

“Several times I tried to ask to the police officers if I could go to the toilet and smoke a cigarette but their answer was always the same: “NO, shut up”.

After the search, the group of people (the respondent and the other 4 people with him) was transferred to a nearby police station where their personal information (name, date of birth and country of origin) was collected, and their fingerprints and photographs were taken.

“I wanted to point out to them that they didn’t have the right to take a picture of my daughter; she is only 5 years! However, when I was to speak, they shut me up immediately in an arrogant way. So I kept quiet for fear that they would beat me up”

“There were a lot of cops, military and dogs outside. We were afraid. We couldn’t refuse to give them our fingerprints”.

After this, the police officers took the group to another closed room next to the office where they were fingerprinted. The respondent claimed that they were in that room for around an hour. During this time, police officers kept going in and out of the room (three or four times), asking them questions, such as: “How many people were there inside the train? How did they get on the train? Who did they pay to go inside?”

On the fourth time, a police officer came inside the room, shouting, “Come out!”. The group was then ushered into a van by the Slovenian authorities. After around twenty minutes driving, the Slovenian authorities took the group to the border and delivered it back to the Croatian police, in another police station (exactly in Perkovčev ul. odv. 1, Harmica, Croazia).

Once there, they were divided by gender: the children and women were first brought out of the van and the men were brought second. The Croatian authorities took the group to another office where they were searched for another time: the police asked for their belongings: bags, mobile phones and power banks. The group was then taken to another room where they were locked together with the 30 people that had been in the train with them originally, in other wagons.

The group and all the people were forced to leave their luggage outside the room without the possibility to take the food and the clothes they brought with them for the long travel. The room was completely empty, there were only a table and a few chairs.

All the people were forced to sleep on the floor in this empty room, with no mattresses or cots to lie on. At sometime between 1:00 am and 2:00 a.m. a policewoman entered the room and shouted “Go sleep, No toilet”. She turned off the light and locked the door. From that moment forward, no one could leave the room.

At some point, during the night, a child did not feel well but when his mother asked the police officers outside if she could go out to the bathroom, she did not receive an answer.

At this point the respondent approached the window and, with one arm, tried to attract the attention of a policeman saying that a child was not feeling well and needed to go to the bathroom. It was only at this point that a police officer arrived and opened the door to let the mother out with her child. At this moment the respondent asked again if he could take his bag to get some water and some food but the answer of the police was:

“No, you can’t take anything, you have to leave everything here, don’t touch nothing and go inside “.

The respondent obeyed the orders without objecting and accordingly for all the night they did not have access to food and water.

“We spent all the night in that room without sleeping, we couldn’t breathe because of the large amount of people who were there and we were all lying on the floor.”

The next morning the police entered the room and told the people inside to get ready and leave quickly in order to bring the big group back to Serbia. Then, they brought some bread to the big group and a small box of fresh cream for breakfast.

First the police took the children and women out of the room and then the men. They divided all the people in groups and they ushered them in 3 vans. The respondent was in the last van with other 10 people, all men.

“The van left very quickly and the whole trip seemed to be on a boat in a stormy sea. There was nothing to hold on to, and at every turn I felt like I was going to fall”

According to the respondent, the police were having fun braking abruptly and running fast with the vans all the way without ever stopping.

 “My daughter felt not well along the way and she threw up .”

At 3:30 p.m. on March 3rd, the respondent and the other people arrived at the border with Serbia where they were released from the officers. Their bags and phones were returned but the respondent did not receive his power bank back. The respondent and the group then took their luggage and walked back to Sid, following the rails.

The incident was covered by several media outlets in Slovenia and outside of the region, mainly due to a picture that was taken while the group was being pulled out of the train initially: