“They punched me because I asked to stop the hot air - pushback from Trieste to Bihac”

  • Date and time: September 15, 2020 00:00
  • Location: San Dorligo della Valle, TS, Italy
  • Coordinates: 45.607175981734, 13.85383960105
  • Push-back from: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia
  • Push-back to: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia
  • Demographics: 6 person(s), age: 25-35 , from: Bangladesh, Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, dog attacks, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: Italian Army officers, one army van and one army car; several Italian police officers, one police van; several Slovenian police officers, one police van and several Croatian police officers, one police van.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken, papers signed, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent, an Algerian man, left the city of Bihac (BiH) on 2nd September, 2020 in a group with five other Algerians. After 12 days of travel they arrived in Trieste (ITA). They entered into Italy near the municipality of San Dorligo della Valle, in the early morning on the 14th September. While the group was walking along a the SP12B road, it was tracked down by a military convoy, composed of a car and a van. The military officers onboard stopped them at the side of the road and called the Italian police, who arrived shortly after.

Location of apprehension.

The captured group were then transferred with a van to a police station in Fernetti [exact location], a site with a military tent erected for identification procedures of people on the move and asylum seekers. The respondent claims that he found himself together with many other people from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to a person from Morocco. Many of the people held at the site, according to him, were minors or had been fingerprinted previously in Greece.

Fernetti, north of Trieste where the group were detained.

The captured transit group remained in the police station from 08:00 until 17:00. The food was distributed collectively and due to a massive amount of people, some were left without. At some point the respondent requested to go to the
toilet and he was taken outside, which allowed him to understand the area where he was. The respondent saw a reception center in front of him.

The assigned translator for the respondent and his group, of Moroccan origin, was already attending to one person from Morocco who was present when they arrived. The respondent overheard the translator suggesting to this person that he should declare himself as a minor. The respondent clearly expressed the will to seek asylum in Italy. Later on, police officers took his fingerprints and his picture. The police officers also searched him and confiscated his phone, a power bank and a watch, which were put inside a plastic bag. After that, the respondent had to sign 3 different documents, one of them – an identification and  domicile paper – was hidden and preserved by the respondent.

Identification paper signed in Fernetti..

At the end of the identification procedure, the police took five of the Algerians from the transit group. The sixth person was taken away however, the respondent stating this was because he had been fingerprinted in Greece. The remaining people from Algeria were put inside a van. The respondent claims that he clearly saw the officers carrying the bag with his personal items, which he thought they would return to him once left at the next destination.

Once they were sitting inside the van, the group realized that they were about to be deported to Slovenia and they asked what was going on. The police officers reassured them that they would stay in Trieste. The van then moved on: inside it was very hot and from the ventilation came out hot air. The respondent knocked on a window to attract the attention of the agents, who stopped the van, got out of the vehicle and opened the hatch to ask for explanations of why they were knocking on the window.

There was a squabble, and one of the two officers punched the respondent, but was immediately stopped by his colleague who invited him to calm down. After the incident, they continued to drive and they arrived in an area, which was described as a road border crossing (likely Pesek-Kozina) between Italy and Slovenia. There, the group found a Slovenian police van with police officers waiting for them. They were transferred very quickly from the Italian police van to the Slovenian van: according to the respondent, officers were looking around with circumspection, as if they were worried about being noticed during the operation ongoing.

Pezek-Kozina crossing where the group were transferred.

Once the captured transit group were transferred to the Slovenian police van, they were taken in a police station, in Kozina, Slovenia. Here the respondent asked for his personal belongings, but the Slovenian police replied that the Italian police had not given them anything. The respondent doesn’t know if his belongings were kept by the Italian police officers or if the Slovenian police officers lied to him, keeping his belongings.

In the station in Kozina, the officers took the prints of their thumbs of both hands, and realized that the respondent was already registered in the police database, due to previous entrance he had made into Slovenia (on this occasion he had also signed some documents). Later on, the group was transferred from Kozina to Ljubljana for a Covid-19 screening. After that, they returned to Kozina, where
they spent the night in the police station.

The next morning (15th September) the group were transferred to Croatia, through the Socerga/Pozane border crossing. Here the Slovenian police photographed the documents that they had signed and threw them away in the garbage, before giving the group over to the regular Croatian police. The respondent, also in this occasion, managed to hide one Italian document, putting it inside his underwear (see previous photograph).

Socerga/Pozane border crossing where the group were expelled into Croatia.

The regular Croatian police kept the group detained all day long inside a van. Alongside the five Algerians captured in Italy, the police also added a man from Bangladesh to the rear detention space. The group received neither water nor food for the whole day. Late in the evening on the 15th September, the group was brought near the Croatian-Bosnian border (the area was then recognized by the group as a forest outside of the city of Bihac), where they found a police unity, wearing black uniforms, described as intervention police forces. There the group was forced to go outside one by one, forcing them to remove their clothes down to their underwear. Their clothes were put in a garbage bag and burned. After that, the officers released dogs on the group. The dogs started to run after them, chasing the group as they fled into Bosnia Herzegovina.