The respondent is a man from Iran. He left his home country in 2020, about a year ago. He traveled to Turkey, where he spent approximately 10 months of his life. He crossed into Greece, reached Athens, but the police arrested him and took all his belongings. Left with nothing, he returned to Istanbul, where he stayed for 3 months working in a factory. He went to Greece again, reached Thessaloniki, and moved on to Albania and Montenegro, walking for almost the entire track.
He was traveling with 2 friends from Iran, a 35-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man.
I want to say one thing: many Iranian people, we have higher education. I am an engineer, my friend is as well. Certainly, we have to have a problem to leave all our family behind. Some of us left their wives, some their children. We face the cold, cross rivers, forests, jungles. My father has a business in Iran, he had a good condition, but the government is very oppressive: we don’t have any freedom in education, in religion, in our lives. We have to run away, we don’t have an option.
They arrived in Bosnia through Montenegro, then went to Zagreb, Croatia. After 2 or 3 days they reached the Slovenian border and crossed into the country on foot – it was October 24, 2021.
On the same day at midnight, the Slovenian police found them.
When we saw the police, we were happy because we didn’t know where we were and we thought they would help us. We said we wanted to stay in Slovenia, we thought we were safe.
There were 2 cars with 4 police officers in total, 3 men and 1 woman in black uniforms. They took the group of Iranians to a police station, where they were questioned about their journey, their background, their families. Moreover, the police took their fingerprints.
After being kept in the police station for 2 days and a half, they were forced to sign a paper. In fact, the document formalizes their expulsion from Slovenia due to their illegal crossing into the country.
Thus, the Slovenian police drove them to the Croatian border. They had confiscated all of their belongings and consigned them to the Croatian police.
The Croatian police brought them to a station, questioned them, and took their pictures. They stayed there for the whole night, without any food or water. The following afternoon, they were driven to the Serbian border. It was a 4 hours ride in a van. When the police stopped, they forced them to sign another deportation paper. A Farsi translation was available, though they were not given the time to read it. The police took most of the few things they had left, like the respondent’s backpack and his friend’s phone.
They turned the lights of the car on and pointed the way. We asked them where we were, we were so confused. The officer said “Serbia, go!”. But why Serbia? It was around midnight when we found this small village with this Orthodox church (Sv. Petar i Pavle). We were freezing, so we tried to go back to Croatia, but the police van was still there and they pushed us back to Serbia again. But this time, this policeman said: “If you try to come back again I will break your feet, I will break your hands.” They had stolen our money, they had stolen our phones, they deported us to Serbia, and still they threatened us with violence like this.
After being back in Serbian territory, they tried to seek help but no one was around. One hour later, they managed to find an abandoned building where they built a small fire and spent the rest of the night. On the following day, they reached a small Serbian village where they tried to ask for help. At 2 PM, they bumped into an Afghani man, who advised them to go to the closest family camp. They walked for 15 km to a gas station, where they tried unsuccessfully to find a taxi. They kept walking until 5 PM when a taxi finally agreed to take them to Šid.
They stopped in a camp for a few weeks. During their stay, the respondent tried to cross into Hungary twice. The first time, he was scared by the fence, the cameras, and the police patrol, so he headed back to Šid.
Hungarian police have very bad behaviour, they beat me with feet and batons. I saw a Syrian old man beaten by a young Hungarian police officer, so many times that he couldn’t walk. I was helpless. Certainly, he must have had a problem to flee his country at 65 years old, and this young, 20-something-years old policeman ruined him.
The second time, he went alone to a different spot with less surveillance. Nevertheless, Hungarian police caught him together with a group of six Syrian people on the move. They were all taken to a sort of big tent, not far from the border (about 2 km). At 9:30 PM he was driven back to Subotica, Serbia. There were 40 people in the police van (a Renault), including 2 children of 8-9 years old.
One of the men on the van, I think from Afghanistan, he was unconscious. There was a “bell” for the emergency, we tried to ring it, but no one stopped. We tried to help this man with water and sugar and after 10 minutes he woke up. But one of the little boys was so scared, he was crying and crying because the man was passed out and looked dead.
The Hungarian police took them to Subotica and handed them out to two Serbian policemen. The latter helped the respondent to get a taxi until Sombor. He spent the night there and the next day he moved to Novi Sad and then back to Šid. There, he was finally reunited with his two Iranian friends. Together with an Afghani man, his child (10-11 years old), and several other Arab people, they crossed the border on foot and finally re-entered Bosnia.
Once in Bosnia again, he moved up North, towards the Una-Sana canton, where he will try and continue his journey to Europe.
We were scared the police would catch us and push us back again. They don’t follow any rules. They are thieves. It didn’t happen only to me, but to my friends, and my friends’ friends, too. I am sorry to say this, but it’s shameful. This is a big business on migration. Migration money, migration phones. In Albania, we wanted to go to Montenegro. Albanian police came next to us and ordered us to go to the police station. We begged them to let us free, so they said: “You don’t want to go to detention, then give us money!” The same happened in Montenegro: Montenegrian police put us on a van, we were 5 people crammed in the back of the vehicle. We begged them to let us go, so they said: “How much money do you have on you?” We didn’t have any cash, I just had my credit card and my phone, but they didn’t accept them. They dropped us on the mountains, in the cold rain. At the Greek-Turkish border, the Greek border police caught us and took all my money and threw my backpack on the fire. It’s all the same. Money, phones, abuse. In Greece, they forced my friends to undress and walk naked. In all the countries, the police look for us for the money. In Banja Luka, the bus driver kicked us out of the bus. The moment we got off, a taxi came to take us and our money. You see? It’s a business, it’s a dirty business. But people are good, they help us, in the jungles, on the street. People is good.