On July 21st, a group of 220 men and underage boys from many countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Algeria, Iran and Turkey – travelling to Italy was apprehended by the Slovenian police in a forest near the Croatian-Slovenian border. Five members of this group – all from Afghanistan, aged 26, 28, 17, 15 and 15 – spoke with the Border Violence Monitoring Network of their experience being pushed back with this group. They stated that of this group of 220, 120 were deported in one mass chain-pushback from Slovenia to Bosnia. After 11 days walking, the group had reached Slovenia by foot. Around 4 or 5pm, the police caught this group in the forest. The respondents describe that five to six helicopters, 13 to 14 police cars and vans, 11 to 12 dogs, 30 “army” members and 40 to 50 police officers, described as wearing light blue shirts and black pants, apprehended this group. Once the police have this group in sight, the police let loose approximately 12 unmuzzled dogs to bite and subdue them. Three of the interviewees had visible scratches and bite wounds from these police dogs.
After this, the police tied the men’s hands behind their backs. A number of violence acts occurred throughout this process: the interviewees state that the police pushed the men, whose hands were tied behind their back, onto the ground until they are lying face down and then the police stamped on their hands repeatedly. The police pushed and kicked the men in the group and beat them with batons while they were tied up and, whilst they were being tied up, pepper sprayed some of them. One interviewee stated that whether or not they listened to the police when the police tell them to stop and stand still, they were pepper sprayed and beaten. When one interviewee mentions “[pepper] spray”, the rest of the group loudly joins in with their own experiences of being sprayed in the forest but one man also says he was pepper sprayed at the police station. Some group members – it is not possible to number them exactly – ask for asylum. However, those that asked for asylum are beaten again and more heavily, and sometimes pepper sprayed after expressing the desire for asylum. Because of this, some stated that they were not able to ask for or express their desire for asylum for fear of being beaten or pepper sprayed. The Slovenian police took their belongings – money, powerbanks, clothing – and smash the charging ports in their phones.
The men in this group were taken in the police vans, with dozens of men per van, to a police station in Slovenia – the respondent does not know how many vans were used. They were kept at this police station for three days with “no water, no food” in rooms with one toilet to many men – exact number unknown. Over time, police give them minimal amounts of bread and water. One man tells the interviewer:
“They want to deport me. [Then] why do they put me in jail two, three days?”
The men were finger-printed at the police station. When the men asked the Slovenian police for asylum, the police told them to apply for asylum they must sign a piece of paper. They were then given pieces of paper to sign but the papers were in Slovenian and there were no translated papers or translators present. The men did not know what they signed but they suspected that it was a paper that expressed the intention to be deported out of Slovenia.
On the morning of July 24th, the men and underage boys were put into Slovenian police vans – “1 van with 20 to 30 people [inside]” – and were driven to the Croatian border where they were handed over to the Croatian police at around 8:00 am. The respondents stated that the police drove “crazy” and people in the vans vomited and fainted because of the driving and lack of fresh air.
When they were handed over to the Croatian police, the men were beaten and then put into Croatian police vans with many men to one van – again, exact numbers are uncertain. They were not taken to a police station. When asked if the men asked the Croatian police for asylum, one man responded:
“when you speak [to] Croatian police [and] want asylum, they don’t let you speak. They beat you…When you say you want asylum, police tell you no. Police say you go Kabul.”
The police then drove for 9 hours, and stopped for one to two hours during this time. The police drove recklessly, and again the men described vomiting and fainting in the vans for lack of fresh air, food and water, which they had not been given for some time now. The group of people on the move were brought to the Croatian-Bosnian border 20-30km from Velika Kladusa. The location they identified on the map was Maljevac, Croatia. At the border, there were 25 to 30 officers described as Croatian regular police present, all wearing masks and described as being very big and strong, who beat the men. The police form two columns outside the police vans and had four people come out of the vans at once, at which point they struck them with batons to usher them to run across the border.
Four people come. Deport. Four people come. Deport.
This process was repeated until all the men were beaten across the border. Minors were also beaten. The police yelled at them to go to Velika Kladusa.
Money, shoes, everything. Walk [with] no shoes to Kladusa…No shoes, no shirt, no mobile, no money.
The group then walked to Velika Kladusa with most of their belongings stolen or destroyed.