This was the first time that the respondent had arrived in Trieste, Italy. Describing his most recent attempt of “the game”, the respondent remembered:
“[When I arrived in Italy] I thought I got it. That I wouldn’t return to this frustrating life.”
On the 22nd of March, the respondent along with seven other people from Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in Trieste, Italy at 5 am. Just before the group reached the city center, they found a cemetery where they changed their clothes. They were carrying a set of clean clothes which they put on, in order to look like “normal people” and not attract any attention. They started to walk towards the city but the police apprehended them before they could arrive there.
As the respondent claims, the police know the way that People on the Move normally choose to reach the city, when arriving from Slovenia. The respondent claimed that some police officers were waiting for them. When the officers saw the group, they had to stop. The police asked them for their passports, but they did not have any documents. After some questions, the authorities brought them to an unidentified police station, in the center of Trieste.
Once there, the officers took the fingerprints of some of the group members. They also asked them to put all their belongings on the table. Afterward, the authorities ordered them to get into a van, and, after some minutes of driving, they arrived at a refugee camp.
Inside the camp, the group was brought to the quarantine section where they started to do the mandatory quarantine. In total, the group spent fifteen days inside the quarantine camp. The respondent found these days to be okay. They were told that during this time, they were only waiting for their papers to get done. But, after these fifteen days, the authorities of the camp told them:
“The camp is full.”
So the camp staff asked the men to get into a minibus, which was described to be similar to a truck. This minibus had seats in it but covered windows. The respondent group assumed that they would get transferred to another camp In Italy. The transportation took place during the late afternoon. Although it was almost dark outside, when the doors of the van opened, the respondent realized that they found themselves on the Italian border with Slovenia. At this moment he asked the authorities that were driving the bus again for international protection and asylum. They did not accept the request and instead, they repeated: “it’s full”. The respondent recalls asking them:
“Why did you put me here?” “I’m here for 15 days, so after that, you are gonna deport me back?”
In the truck they were transported in, there were eight of them plus another six or seven people from Afghanistan that were put into the truck when they stopped somewhere shortly before arriving at the border. At the border, all of them had to leave the truck. There was another van just in front of it, so they just had to walk a few meters to change the vehicle. Inside the second vehicle, there were some Slovenian officers. Nobody told them that they were about to get pushed back.
“I realize that I was again at the border because I’ve been there a few times.” At this moment, he also repeated to the officers that he wanted to ask for asylum. Again, they did not consider his request. They just said; “Move, move!” holding a baton. So, everyone started to move because the officers were threatening them with the batons.
At this location of the border with Slovenia, two vehicles escorted the van; one civil car and a white police van. There were around six officers in the van. They drove them to the Croatian border. The journey lasted for several hours.
Once there, there was another minibus parked, that then drove them across the country until they reached the border between Croatia and Bosnia. The respondent claimed that there were four civil cars with officers wearing uniforms. They were all from Croatia and all men except for one woman.
While the transit group was getting out of the van, at the border side, the officers struck them. The majority of the officers were wearing ski masks and black uniforms. This description matches the uniforms worn by the Croatian Intervention police.
The officers were standing one by one, interspersed. Two on one side, and two more on the other side. So that the men, received hits from both sides while they were walking the first steps towards the border. As the respondent expressed, this was the worst part of the chain pushback. He remembered some minutes of screams and severe pain, without the possibility to stop the violence.
After they hit them, they ordered them to stand in a line. Screaming: “Take off your bag, open it!” They thoroughly checked everything that they were carrying, even the zipper of the pants. They had to undress and put the clothes on the ground, which one officer collected all together in a stack. Then they poured some gasoline on top and set everything on fire.
The fire was a few meters away from all of them. The respondent stated:
“Everything was burning in front of my eyes.” “Also the phones, wallets, power banks, everything!”
According to the respondent, he also saw how some officers kept some phones in their pockets. Once this ended, they ordered them to start walking. When they arrived inside the country of Bosnia, the respondent thought about going back to check if something in the pile was not burned. When he returned back to the pushback location, he saw that the police were still standing there, so he decided to walk to Velika Kladusa, Bosnia again.