On Wednesday 13th November 2019 a young couple from Tunisia hid in a train, leaving Sid in the direction of Italy. They stayed in their hideout for almost 24 hours until apprehension in Slovenia the following day (14th November 2019). Having crossed the border from Croatia just before, they were detected by five Slovenian border officials conducting a screening of the train. Being well disguised and hard to reach, the officers had to use a “long metal stick” to poke and swing for the couple in order to make them descend. The two were then walked to the police station inside the train station.
Inside they were taken to the detention area and met by different officers. They had their information taken, as well as their fingerprints, pictures, their passports and phones and the amount of 500 EUR. The frisking of the female respondent was conducted by a female officer. When they had asked for asylum in Slovenia, they were met with this response by authorities.
“This is not our job. We call police to take you.”
For the next 3-4 hours they had to wait in the detention area. Being afraid of what might happen to them and felt like they were being treated as criminals, the couple trusted in every word the authorities present were saying to them, even when they had asked for their passports back.
“You get them from police”
When a big white police van appeared, three Croatian officers were in the front. The couple was ordered to enter the back of the van, where they encountered six other people also being transported to Croatia. Their ride would take around 1hr 15 minutes and ended inside a Croatian border police station. The group of eight was then led into a detention cell of around 5 to 3 meters with two windows. One window showed the inside of the station, an open yard with their transport vehicle and “many” police officers inside. The other window showed a river and a bridge that revealed a border checkpoint, allegedly Slovenian on the other side.
Being held up in a small room with the other people and in completely uncertainty of what was going to happen, the female respondent became very worried, which resulted in her crying and starting to sweat first, until she fainted and – as her husband described – her kidneys began cramping. He then called immediately for help. Two officers took her by the arms and carried her outside, leaving the husband with the rest of the group inside the cell. He would not see her for the next six hours, nor would he get any information as to what was happening to her.
The woman was brought to a hospital in nearby Zagreb. She herself remembered waking up in the hospital, being guarded by a male police officer. While there was no translator present she understood as much from the doctor informing her, that she was to undergo surgery the following day. According to her statement he also handed a paper with the diagnosis and operative report to the officer present. However, she was transported back to the police station by two officers, ignoring the doctors advise. She received no food whatsoever during her stay.
While his wife was away, the respondent kept waiting with the others in the cell. As their detention grew longer they asked the officers present for water and food. At first they were denied. When they repeatedly kept asking, one officer encountered:
“You will not get food until we get money”
One of the other inmates had 20 EUR hidden during his initial apprehension and frisk search. He handed it to the officer. Some 15 minutes later the group received a little water and crackers.
When his wife finally arrived back from the hospital, nothing had changed for the group. They were waiting inside the small cell another 15 hours with no mattresses or other means for resting provided. They had been asking for asylum several times during their detention and always been denied.
“When we get you to centre in Zagreb, you can ask.”
When they were removed from the cell sometime in the afternoon of November 15th 2019, the eight people were loaded into the back of a van similar to the one they entered the day before. Two officers drove them to Zagreb, where they were quickly transferred to another set of police in Zagreb (that is being loaded into another white van of the same kind, together with 3 further people). The van then started its trip direction Serbia.
At one point somewhere in the interior of Croatia, the van came to make a stop at an empty parking lot. One by one, the people were ordered to descend the vehicle. Outside each of the group would undergo a strip search to the naked skin by the two male officers. The female respondent was submitted to the same procedure, being touched in private parts of her body. After the undignified strip search had ended without results for the officers, the journey continued another hour.
Again one by one the group had to leave the van, this time for their push-back to Serbia. The two officers waited outside, armed with a “metal stick” with which they would strike for the people following their previously indicted directions towards Serbia. Both respondents had been hit on their backs but managed to make a run without severe injuries. They found their way back on the Serbian side of the border, and made their way back to Sid on foot. They arrived there in the early morning hours of November 16th, without money, passports and mobile phones.