The group of eight persons (22-36 years old; from Morocco, Algeria and Western Sahara) left from Izačić (BiH) and continued over the mountains and through the forests, where there was also still snow and ice on the ground. Due to some problems which the group encountered, the group split into two smaller groups of four persons each. One of the groups of four persons walked for around ten days through Croatia and finally reached the Croatian/Slovenian border, north of Rijeka, without any food left. Due to the presence of the Kolpa river, the group decided to cross over a bridge after which they encountered a high iron fence with barbed wire (there was a street before and after it). When they climbed over it, they cut their hands badly, leaving the group-members bleeding.
“As soon as we put our feet on the Slovenian side of the border, 3 police officers with 2 dogs came towards us. Then another 4 police officers came, because they thought it was many refugees coming.”
In addition to the bleeding from the wounds on their hands, the group was hungry and cold. Nonetheless, the police did not provide first aid or give them anything to eat in this situation. Instead, they put the group of four in a prisoner-transport van, locked the door, and drove them to a police station approximately one hour away.
“One of the police officers said, we have to go back to Croatia because all of the camps in Slovenia are full. But this is a lie.”
When they were let out of the van and brought into the police station one by one, they gave their names and countries of origin to two female police officers. The officers also also took one fingerprint of the index finger of every person.
“We know already, one fingerprint taken means back to Bosnia, ten fingerprints taken means camp.”
There was also a translator from Egypt, who the respondent described as very unfriendly and racist towards them. When they asked for a doctor, because they were still bleeding and the wounds on their hands were hurting, the translator just looked at them and told the police, that they did not really need a doctor.
“Our clothes were full of blood. We asked again for a doctor and the Swiss Cross, to treat us, but the police said no.”
Finally some police officers put some cream and bandages on their hands.
One men of the group felt very sick, because he was exhausted from the walking, hunger and wounds and fainted, after which the police officers brought him to a hospital.
“Later we found out, that they also pushed him back to Bosnia after he woke up in the hospital.”
They were given in total 12 documents to sign, they were written in Slovenian. One of them was a fine of 500€ for crossing the border, as the translator explained to them.
“We refused to sign any documents because we knew, that they wanted to deport us back to Bosnia. We also refused to eat any food. We told them, we want to go to the camp in Ljubljana and then we will eat.”
The police said, that it doesn’t matter whether they sign the papers or not. After one day in the police station, the chief of the station came with food to them and tried to convince them, to eat something.
“He was maybe scared of our protest. Then he assured us, that we can go to the camp in Ljubljana, but that was a lie.”
“In the room where we were held there was also a video camera at the ceiling. I think because of this, they didn’t touch or hurt us.”
In total the group spent three full days in the police station. Then, in the early morning of the June 5 at 1:00AM, five police officers came into the room and handcuffed them with their hands behind their backs. Again, they lied to the group-members, telling them that they would bring them to the camp in Ljubljana as they brought them outside.
“There were even three police officers with three horses, because they are afraid that we would run away into the forest. And they wanted to scare us with this.”
After this, the officers put the group of three into a prisoner-transport van and locked the door behind them. Like this, they drove them again about one hour to the a border crossing, where Croatian authorities were waiting for them. The three Slovenian police officers pushed them out of the van, took off the handcuffs, and handed them over to the Croatian authorities. Then, one by one, they had to sign a paper with their name and a number on it; a Croatian police officer made pictures with his smartphone of them, while they had to hold this paper in front of their chests. Around this time the friend, who was sick in the hospital, was brought with them to the border.
“In Croatia if you don’t sign this paper you have a big problem. When they push you back to Bosnia, they beat you very hard, if you don’t sign. And you have to shut up, if you speak anything they will break your face.”
Three Croatian police officers pushed them into another prisoner van and drove them within four hours to the Croatian/Bosnian border. The drive was described as being very uncomfortable for the group members, the officers were described as driving erratically on mountain roads forcing the group members inside of the van to fall over each other and hit their head on the sides of the back of the van. Also the drivers turned on the air conditioners in the back of the car at its highest setting, so that the three friends were left very cold.
At 4:00 am in the morning, when it was still dark, they arrived at the Croatian/Bosnian border, not far from Velika Kladuša. When the car stopped, they were let out two by two. In front of the door there were seven police officers with balaclavas and sticks waiting for them. They took everything from them, like backpacks, sleeping bags, food, smartphones, power banks and all the money and destroyed or stole it. Then they hit them from every side with batons and also kicked them and told them to go to the Bosnian side of the border.
“If you go down, they kick you and beat you very hard. You just have to run. Last year they broke the leg of a friend, I saw it with my own eyes.”
The police officers forced them to jump into the Glina river directly at the border, where the water rose to their chests. In the river they even lost their white, thin sandals, which they had received from the hospital, because they had no shoes anymore.
After this, they had to walk eleven kilometers to Velika Kladuša, which took around six hours, because two of the persons no longer had shoes.
“We had to walk very slowly, because we had a lot of pain on the feet.”