On 20th September 2021, 6 Afghan males between the ages of 17 and 22 attempted to cross the border from Slovenia into Italy near the city of Trieste. They had been traveling for 3 days from Serbia before reaching this point. They walked for 4 hours to the border with another group, but the weather was cold and raining so they decided to try taking a taxi instead. As they were hidden in the taxi they did not have enough space for their bags, and so during this ride they had no water or food.
The two groups set off in two different taxis. The first made it across the border, but as the second one was approaching it after a 40-minute journey, a police car began chasing them. The driver of the taxi stopped on a small bridge and escaped on foot, but the men in the car were arrested by two Slovenian police officers. The officers were described as one young man and one old man, both wearing blue short-sleeved tops. The men were then taken to a police station near the Italian border. Here they spent 1 night. The respondents remarked that they were treated well, that the police cooperated and did not try to scare them, and that they were given food, water, and blankets. However, it was cold, and a few of the group became ill. The police tried to interview them about their attempt across the border, but after receiving no response told them to rest and take their food.
On the morning of 21 September, the group were all given COVID tests and taken to a quarantine facility. Here they spent 3 nights. Again, the respondent stated that they were treated well. They were allowed to use their mobile phones for 2 hours per day and were given good quality food and medical care from a nurse/doctor. The group stated that they intended to claim asylum except for one that was going to Germany because he had a brother there. They also filled out a form stating that they faced threat in Afghanistan. Communication was initially made in English, but a Pashtu-speaking interpreter from Pakistan was provided for the interview. One of the group, the 6th member, was allowed to stay in Slovenia as he was 17.
On the morning of 24 September the group of 5, all Afghan males between the age of 18 and 22, were given all of their belongings and driven to a small checkpoint on the Croatian border. The checkpoint was described as a two-sided road with a container on each side. Here they were handed over to two Croatian officers, whom the Slovenian officers spoke with. The Croatian officers were described as one woman around 40-45 years old and one man around 50, both wearing light blue short-sleeved shirts consistent with the uniform of the Croatian Granicna Policija (border police), and one wearing a jacket. Here the respondents remarked that the good treatment ended and that the Croatian officers began acting “insane”. They were driven to a police station near the Croatia-Slovenia border. Here their sim cards were all taken, meaning the group could not access their phones or location services anymore. A group of 7 Pakistani men was also. Initially, the two groups were held in separate rooms, but when another detainee arrived at the station all 12 men were put in the same room. The respondents described the room as 2x2m, designed for 1 person, and smelling very bad.
The two groups were kept in these conditions from 10 am-7 pm, with no food or water. They asked for these repeatedly and were eventually given something to eat after paying with their own money. One of the group of 5 was kicked twice for no apparent reason. The group stated their intention to claim asylum, and again filled out a form stating that they faced threat in Afghanistan. In response, the woman officer asked: “why did you leave Afghanistan? If there was war you should fight not leave”. The group remarked that they refused to engage, stating that “she doesn’t know politics, doesn’t know when someone should stay or leave, there is different reasons”.
At around 8 pm all 12 men were given their belongings back, minus their sim cards. As the belongings were jumbled and all given at once, some things were lost or potentially stolen. They were then ordered to get in a van which was driven by the same two officers. The group of 5 asked to be returned to Serbia as they had contacts there and had spent time there. They also had Serbian refugee camp ID cards. They were told by the officers that they would be taken to Serbia. The officers then began driving slowly, stopping often and parking to pass the time. The groups asked for something to drink and gave money in return for cola and water. At 12am they were dropped at the Bosnia-Croatia border, near the town of Velika Kladuša.
The group walked into Velika Kladuša. They spent all night outside with no blankets, sleeping bags, or comfortable places to sleep. The weather was freezing. They tried to enter a restaurant at 7am but were not allowed in. After 2 nights in the cold weather, the group of 5 decided to return to Serbia. The return cost between €500-600. They crossed the border into Serbia at a bridge, where the group remarked that there was no police in sight.