“Denied Asylum in Italy and Slovenia”

  • Date and time: December 22, 2020 01:00
  • Location: Between Bogovlja and Kobiljak, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 45.1840797, 15.8068421
  • Pushback from: Croatia, Italy, Slovenia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia
  • Demographics: 10 person(s), age: 20-55 , from: Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: at point of apprehension: 3 Italian army members in khaki uniforms, one female and two males with 1 large gun and 2 smaller pistols and 10-12 police officers in blue uniforms; at Italian police station: unknown number of officers; at Italian-Slovenia border: 2 Slovenian officers in blue uniforms; at Slovenian police station: unknown number of officers; at Slovenian camp: 4 officers in blue uniforms (1 female, 3 male); at Slovenian-Croatian border: 4 male Slovenian officers in blue uniforms, 2 Croatian officers (1 male, 1 female); at Croatian police station: 2 male officers in blue uniforms; at push-back location: 4 additional male officers all in blue uniforms with batons.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, fingerprints taken, personal information taken, papers signed, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Collective Aid

Original Report

In early December, two Moroccan men (aged mid-twenties) began their journey from near Šturlić, Bosnia and Herzegovina. They crossed into Croatia in a mountainous region, crossing the border at approximately 01:00. They spent 3 weeks travelling on foot until they reached Trieste, Italy. The individuals were at the bus station in Trieste at approximately 08:00 on December 20th, 2020, and after 20 minutes they were approached by 3 officers. The respondent referred to them as “army officers” and they wore khaki uniforms. The officer in charge was a female carrying a large gun, and she was accompanied by 2 male officers carrying smaller pistols. These officers asked the transit group for their documents and called police officers to the station. 

Shortly after, 10-12 police officers in blue uniforms arrived in 4-5 white police cars. The officers told the respondent that they were allowed to go to Milan and the respondent believed they may be able to continue on their journey, but very shortly after this comment, the two men were placed into one of the police cars and were taken to a nearby police station. At the station, they were subjected to a very detailed pat-down body search. At this time, none of their belongings were taken, and the two men were each given a pair of socks. They spent approximately 3 hours at this station, during which the two men each had to sign a document. There was a translator present at this station, but the documents were written in Italian. The two men also had their fingerprints taken, and were told they must wait for the officers to check if they had been recorded in other European Union countries. During this time the respondent asked the translator to express their intentions to begin the asylum-seeking process. The translator told this to the officers but explained to the respondent that the request was denied.

After 3 hours at the station, the two men were put in the same police car and driven for approximately 1 hour on the highway until they arrived at the Italian-Slovenian border. Given this information, it is believed this could have occurred near Gorizia, Italy. Here they were handed over to 2 male Slovenian officers, both in blue uniforms. The transit group was patted down by the Slovenian officers and again the respondent reported that none of their belongings were taken at this location. They were taken by police car to a police station located right at the border, on the Slovenian side. Here they were locked into a cell and removed one-by-one to give their personal information and information on their border-crossing attempt to one of the officers who patted them down. A Libyan translator was present, but the respondent reported that the translator did not seem to have the transit group’s interests in mind. When the transit group asked for asylum at this police station, the respondent believes that the translator did not translate this request. 

The respondent reported being in this police station for approximately 4 hours, and the group was given stale bread and water at approximately 17:00 that evening. Shortly after, they were taken in a police car and driven for approximately 1 hour. They arrived at a closed camp, where upon arrival they were patted down again by officers (1 female and 3 male officers in blue uniforms) and a female doctor took their temperature before they were brought into camp. They were put into a locked room and did not receive food or water, even when they asked for it. They had a toilet in their cell. 

At 07:00 on the morning of the 21st, a large white police van with lights on top arrived, with 4 male officers inside (all in blue uniforms). The transit group was put into the back of the van, and the driver was very reckless during the 90 minute drive. When they were let out of the back of the van, they believed they had arrived at the Slovenian-Croatian border and were met with one male and one female Croation officer. The Slovenian officers handed the Croatian officers 4 papers and then left the location. The male Croatian officer then took the phones, power banks, money, and outer-layers of clothing from the two men. The men were placed in the back of a similar large white police van and were driven for approximately 1 hour, with the female officer driving recklessly for the duration of the trip. 

They arrived at the Croatian police station and were locked into a room where they stayed for approximately 3 hours. During this time they were given a milk-like drink but were denied water, and were told they could have food only if they paid for it. At this police station they were not asked to provide any personal information and were not provided any documents to sign. The two male officers present at the station (both in blue uniforms) then made the men get into the back of the same white police van, where 5 Pakistani, 1 Moroccan, and 2 Iraqi men were already waiting. The age range of these men was approximately 20-55. The respondent reported that the van driver was again very reckless, and there was cold air blowing strongly on to the transit group in the back of the cabin for the duration of the drive. After 5-6 hours, they arrived approximately 50 meters from the Croatian-Bosnian border where 4 additional officers were already waiting in one large white police van and one smaller white police car. The officers were all male and wore blue uniforms. The respondent believes they had arrived at this location at approximately 01:00 on December 22nd.

Here the transit group was kicked and beaten one-by-one with batons on their backs and legs. The respondent believes the officers beat the men for approximately 5 minutes each, all while the officers yelled at them in Croatian. Some individuals in the transit group were still wearing jackets, and the officers took their jackets before yelling at them to go back to Bosnia. The group did not encounter anyone in Bosnian territory and found an abandoned house not far from the push-back location. They slept in the house overnight, and in the morning began a two-day walk back to Velika Kladuša.