“In Algeria, we are alive but we are dead.”
His job in Algeria was not giving Abdel* enough money to feed his three kids and his wife. So at 37 years old, he decided to go to Europe in search for a better future for his children.
Four days ago, him and his friends, from Algeria and Morocco, had bought some provisions (food, water) and started their long journey in the “jungle” (forest) through Croatia in direction of Italy and France.
After three days walking, the group arrived at a village.
“There was 1,5 km left to get to the river. We saw a car on the road so we hid. But then, all of a sudden, the car was here in front of us. They had called the police, it is for sure.”
Five to six male officers were in front of Abdel*. His friends had already started to run away but Abdel* lied down. Two officers stayed with him while the others were running after the rest of the group.
“They took me to the tar (road). I was on the ground. One officer kicked me on the head with his feet. In the ribs. I could not breathe anymore (hands on his chest and ribs imitating breathe distress). He had his feet on my head and he shot three times in the air with his gun. They handcuffed me. There was a bridge with bars and they hitched one handcuff to the bars.”
According to the respondent’s description and GPS indications at that specific moment, the place of apprehension is situated in Mrežnica (HR).
Abdel* was now alone with the two officers.
“They told me to call my friends for them to come. If they had not beaten me, maybe I would have told them to come. But they beat me so, I shouted, but not to tell them to come. Unfortunately four other officers caught my friends in the forest.”
Meanwhile, the officers had checked his pockets and bag.
“They asked me if I could speak English and wanted me to empty my bag. I was handcuffed so the other officer did it himself. I had my phone, 10 euros, a paper from the camp in Sarajevo and the [Quran]. I said it was a book. He took my phone, my power bank. I had a sim card that was working everywhere, even in Bosnia. My wife called me at that moment. I had put my phone on silence but he saw the light in my pocket. [The officer] thought my friends were calling and asked me to answer, but when I said it was my wife, he threw the phone into the river.”
Then, the other officers brought his friends.
“They broke his glasses (pointing at his friend), he cannot see anything and they struck another on his face. When they saw he had the Quran, they threw his sleeping bag into the river.”
The respondent also shared his puzzlement regarding the officers’ attitude.
“The officer was talking over the phone as if he had done a great thing, but we are not terrorists. Like if he were going to earn a bonus with us. This you do it when you catch some mafia, but we are simple people. We are not terrorists. It doesn’t make me feel good to leave my children. I had no choice.”
After this, a vehicle described as a white van from the Croatian police, arrived with a supervisor whose description suggests he was a commander of section in the special police
“He had dark blue uniform with three stars on the shoulder.”
Inside the van, four people: one Moroccan caught 30 km away from the camp of Ljubljana (SL), and three Palestinian who wanted to reach Austria.
Despite the laws and treaties that Slovenia has to respect, also for belonging to the European Union, the respondent explained how the officers lie and break the law, pushing back people without allowing them to ask for asylum despite their explicit request:
“They told him ‘yes we will provide you asylum in Ljubljana’. They took also my mother’s name, my father’s name, my full name and then brought me back to Bosnia!”
The van started, and with the drive, started also their sickness. Purposely, the driver was “accelerating, halting, accelerating, halting”. This is a common practice to expose the people on the move to reckless driving as a means to push their physical capacity to the limits and make them feel sick.
“All nine of us vomited. Even if you don’t want, you see your friend vomiting and you vomit.”
At some point, the van stopped and the officers took the three Palestinian and the Moroccan people into a “small base, to sign a paper and give fingerprints.”
The place where they had halted was described to be “a small station, like an Algeco container, with a grid. There were other policemen.”
The location was not verbalized by the officers and the conditions inside the vehicle (no windows) and during the drive did not allow them to have any clue of where they could be. The group came back and the van restarted till they reached the border near Buhača (HR).
“We had to go down one by one. When you get out of the van, you find the captain (described as being between 55 and 60 years old; bald) with three stars and three other [officers] with balaclavas. You look how to escape, but it is night and there is a river. At the first step, I was struck (describing being struck by a police baton).”
The second step, he rolled down and “fell into the river.”
“I did not know I was going to fall down. It was night I could not see anything. We stayed into the river. It was cold. Then we thought they had gone, we climbed but they were still there. We ran away.”
“I want to work night and day, to invest in my children. I want them to have a good level of studies.”
“Coming here, it is suicide.” But he had no choice.
*Names are changed to respect anonymity