The respondent, a 28-year-old, reported that on Tuesday the 12th of October 2021 at around 5 pm his group of five men from Afghanistan was apprehended by the authorities close to the A1 highway in Slovenia, about 15 kilometers east of Trieste. The group, aged mostly between twenty and thirty, had reportedly already been in transit for 12 days, walking the whole of the day and sleeping at night, having started from the Bosnian town of Bihać.
The respondent stated that the bread they had with them had been finished for three days and, since then, they had been walking without food, only eating small apples from trees they passed on the way. Having reached roughly this position (45.665171, 13.968692), and left with a total of 20 Euro between the five people, one of the transit group who had started to become sick urged the others to go to a nearby village whereupon two members of the transit group walked into town to find some bread. There, while walking on a street in town, the respondent states that they were approached by what they said were two Slovenian police officers in one police car. When they were apprehended by the officers, the two individuals, considering the dire circumstances they were in, decided to surrender on behalf of the rest of the group, hoping to formally apply for asylum with the Slovenian authorities, as reported by the respondent. Therefore, they obeyed the authorities’ orders and took them to find the other three members of the group who had been waiting for them in the forest near the highway outside of town. The 28-year-old respondent stated that the group of two returned in the custody of the officers around one and a half hours after their departure. There the respondent reports that the authorities arrived with a total of five officers, four described by the respondents as male and one female, in two police cars. The officers reportedly all wore light blue short-sleeve shirts and dark trousers.The rest of the transit group also gave themselves over to the authorities.
The authorities then drove them for what the 28-year old respondent said felt like one hour to what he described as an unknown police station where they spent one night. Before putting the respondents in the car, the respondent states that the officers had confiscated all of the transit group’s phones. Still, the respondents relayed they were relieved and slept very well that night, thinking they would be given asylum, since they were made to each take Covid-tests, sign papers, and had pictures and fingerprints taken. The papers contained several pages with about four to five signatures they all had to give, in a language unknown to the respondents for which no translation was provided. The officers reportedly only told them to “Sign here”, explaining when they caught transit group they had to make them sign these papers. As the respondent relayed:
“For tomorrow, I was so happy! That night I was sleeping too good, I said ‘Now I have stay [asylum].’“
“I spoke with one police officer, I asked: ‘This is stay [asylum], my friend?’ He said: ‘I don’t know, we see the boss tomorrow.’” Another time a respondent asked: “This means stay [asylum]?” Upon which the responding police officer started laughing, saying “Hahaha, maybe!”
When the respondent asked which city they were in, one officer replied what the he referred to as “Kučuwijk”; it would be possible he was referring to the police station of Kočevje (https://goo.gl/maps/jiSDLLFZhHVjg7b37), about 100 km by car from the site of apprehension, although this does not completely correspond to the recalled driving times. They were reportedly given food to eat at the police station. The toilet was openly contained in the single detention room they were forced to stay in, with no possible privacy, which the respondent reported made the group feel very uncomfortable.
The respondent recalled that, the next morning, two more vehicles with what were described as three Slovenian police officers came to take all five members of the transit group to the Slovenian-Croatian border, where they arrived at around 9.30 a.m. after what was recalled as two hours of driving. According to the respondent, two police cars were waiting for them at the roadside with six officers were visible to them. The respondent described bost the police car and officers as being Croatian. He stated that, at the border, there was another small police station which, according to the respondent, consisted of only one large room. This station was described as being next to a village on the Croatian side of the Slovenian-Croatian border, which they could see from the car. They waited in the car for another half an hour.
At the border the two respondents recalled that also transit groups were detained, which were from not only Afghanistan but also Pakistan and Bangladesh. In total, they estimated about 40 more people were detained in what were described as four black police vans. When they were handed over to the authorities, which consisted of between 14 and 15 officers referred to as Croatian, wearing all-black uniforms who had come in four to five cars, including three female officers wearing slightly different uniforms than the males. One of the reportedly Croatian officers also was said to have ask them to hand over their money, even though they had none left.
“When we were deported to Croatia, one police officer came: ’You have money, you have money?’ No money we had!”
All officers were described as wearing the same black uniform, and four were additionally wearing a mask covering their faces. On their left chest and left upper arm of the uniform the respondent remembered seeing the word ‘Policija’, and also the letters ‘HRT’ for Hrvatska. Upon showing pictures of the different kinds of uniforms of Croatian authorities to the two respondents after their description, they said the officers were wearing uniforms strongly resembling those of the Croatian Intervention police.
The respondent repored that, with four people from another transit group – nine passengers in total in the van – they then drove to another town, whose location the respondents could not recall as the van was described as having no windows in the back. The respondent reports that they drove for what felt like between 39 minutes and a full hour. There the officers got out and left them to wait in the car for what the respondents say were about two hours. Both respondents suspected that the officers went out to eat something.
During this waiting period, multiple people of the group became sick, as the car was parked in the strong noon sun, and reportedly became very hot with nine people inside; the oxygen decreased while the windows were closed and air conditioning turned off. The respondent recalls how members of the transit group were beating with their fists against the windows of the van to make the officers come back and turn on the air conditioning while three people had to throw up into their shirts.
“Everyone did call for the police, my friend. You cannot speak with the Croatian police.”
After this episode, it was reported that the transit group was then driven for four hours to a forested area without roads on the Bosnian-Croatian border, about 30KM northeast of the small Bosnian town of Velika Kladuša. Despite the preceding and subsequent violence, the respondent still described the officers as comparatively “good policemen” because they then kept a normal temperature in the car and tended to drive safely instead of severely underheating or overheating the rear of the van or recklessly taking sharp turns at high speed, as they said they had experienced during several previous pushbacks from Croatia.
When they were pushed back across the border at around 5 pm, the respondent states that the officers forced them to put their mobile phones and powerbanks into a large plastic bag that one of the officers then put in the back of their car. The respondent recalled being beaten by one of the female officers while being forced to hand over his phone. Two of the officers, as described by the interviewee, carried long black firearms which they pointed at the transit group. The respondent reports that, as they were forced across the border into Bosnia, the officers lined up the group, with one of the masked officers on each side, and both took turns beating each person in the line on different parts of the back with heavy branches from the forest. Each person was beaten. The interviewee also stated that the Croatian officers did not speak to them, but only called them several swear words and insults.
From the pushback point, the transit group said it took them about seven to eight hours to return to Velika Kladuša on foot. From there it took them another two days to get back to Bihać, as they were slowed down by blisters on their feet from walking for days and had no money for a bus.