In the morning of July 25th, 2021, a group of six men were detained in Bad Radkersburg (Austria) and subsequently pushed back to Slovenia. The countries of origin of the respondents were Somalia, Tanzania, Guinea, Congo and other African nations, one minor of 17 years from Somalia and five adults. Part of the group had departed from Turkey and crossed the Balkans transiting various countries and last Slovenia before reaching Austria. The transit group had been walking for 17 days. They crossed the border from Slovenia into Austria on foot trying to leave the immediate border area. They were aware of the risk of being pushed back from various accounts of other people on the move they had encountered along the way. The minor had already suffered a violent pushback by the Croatian authorities before, where he was badly beaten and stripped of his shoes.
In the town of Bad Radkersburg, that they approached after walking 4 kilometres, they felt safe enough to look for an Austrian police station in order to apply for asylum. Close to the football ground in the outskirts of the town, they were approached by a police car with 2 police officers in police uniforms, one male and one female. They believed that someone who had observed them walking called the authorities. The group expressed their intention to apply for asylum in English immediately. After that, the respondent reported that a military car with 5 or 6 soldiers approached. The police officers searched their bags and asked if they had dangerous objects on them. After the group denied that, they were transported to the nearby Austrian border station of Sicheldorf. The trip lasted only a couple of minutes.
Inside the station, the group had pictures and fingerprints taken, their names and dates of birth were documented. During the whole time no translator was present, even when the group was asked to sign papers in German language, that were not translated to them by any of the officers. Again the people expressed their request for international protection. They took a Covid test. After the group told the officers that they had not had any food for the past three days, the policemen provided them with sufficient food after 15 minutes. The police officers told them, they would bring them to a camp and that they only had to take their fingerprints and document some basic information in the border station before doing so. The group felt safe and some even fell asleep in the 2 beds available. The others were sleeping on the floor of the holding room.
To their surprise, after 4 or 5 hours Slovenian policemen in uniform appeared. Again the group expressed their request for asylum in Austria, even telling the Slovenian officers about it. Nevertheless, the Austrian officers handed them over to the Slovenian authorities who brought them away in a police van with Slovenian insignia. The transit group in the police van were desperate about the pushback fearing they would be further pushed back to Bosnia via Croatia, asking the Slovenian police to stop, one man passed out from desperation during the trip that roughly lasted 20 minutes. In Slovenia, the minor applied for asylum and his request was processed by the Slovenian authorities.
A. aged 17, from Somalia stated :
„Most of us were sick or had injuries on our legs. So, we were saying, we need doctors. The Austrian authorities present in the police station told us: No problem, you will go to the camp and the doctor will check you and everything will be okay. (…)
We were all tired, we fell asleep. Then, they came back, after one hour, I think. They brought a lot of papers, they were written in Deutsch, in German. We couldn’t understand anything and they said: Sign it. We trusted them, we said okay. No one saw even 1% of the possibility that they would take us back. We never heard about Austria taking people back. So, we said, okay, no problem. We signed everything. (…)
I was asleep. I took my shoes off. I was happy. My struggle had ended. And then, I remember, my friends woke me up. They said, okay, the bus for us has arrived. Let’s go. We need to go. So, I said, okay, I will tie my shoes and come out. I started tying my shoes and my friend was ahead of me. They did not understand that that car was from Slovenia.
When I came out, I was the last person, I looked, I saw the Slovenian flag, the Slovenian police. The first thought in my mind was: Oh, they will give us to Slovenia, Slovenia will give us to Croatia and Croatia will give us to Bosnia. So, I said: No, no, this is not possible, why do you do this, we are migrants here. The Slovenian police was suprised, you know. He said: Why are you mad, you want asylum here or what? I said: Yes, I want asylum here, I told them. He said: You are sure, you told them? He was a good guy, the Slovenian guy. So, he said: I will call my boss and make sure about what happened. I am not sure, I think the Austrian border control told them, we are not asylum seekers in Austria or something.“