On July 21st, a group of 220 men and underage boys from many countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Algeria, Iran and Turkey – traveling to Italy is apprehended by the Slovenian police in the forest near the Croatian-Slovenian border. Five members of this group – all from Afghanistan, aged 26, 28, 17, 15 and 15 – spoke with Border Violence Monitoring of their experience being pushed back with this group, where they tell us that of this group of 220, 120 are deported in one pushback from Slovenia to Bosnia. After 11 days walking, the group had reached Slovenia by foot. Around 4 to 5pm, the police catch this group in the forest. Five to six helicopters, 13 to 14 police cars and vans, 11 to 12 dogs, “30 army” members and 40 to 50 police officers, wearing light blue shirts and black pants, apprehend this group. Once the police have this group in their sight, the police let loose approximately 12 unmuzzled dogs to bite and subdue the people in the group. Three of the interviewees had visible scratches and bite wounds from these police dogs.
After this, the police tie the men’s hands behind their backs. A number of violences occur throughout this process: the interviewees state that the police push the men, whose hands are tied behind their back, onto the ground until they are lying face down and then the police stamp on their hands repeatedly. The police push and kick the men in the group and beat the men with batons while they are tied up and when they are being tied up and pepper spray some of them. One interviewee stated that whether they listen to the police when the police tell them to stop and stand still or not, they are 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 is 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 asking for asylum or expressing desire for asylum. Because of this, some men say they are not able to ask for or express their desire for asylum for fear of being beaten or pepper sprayed. The Slovenian police take their belongings – money, powerbanks, clothing – and smash the charging ports in their phones.
The men in this group are taken in the police vans, with dozens of men per van, to a police station in Slovenia. They are kept at this police station for three days with “no water, no food” in rooms with one toilet to many men. 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 tell 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 intent 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 vomit and faint because of the driving and lack of fresh air.
When the men were handed over to the Croatian police, the men were beaten and then put into Croatian police vans with many men to one van. 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 were not given. The men and minors are 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 Croatian regular police present, all wearing masks and described as 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 and at which point the 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.