“Our dreams were shattered by the Croats and the Slovenes”

  • Date and time: November 25, 2020 17:00
  • Location: 30 km into Slovenia from coordinates 45.456488, 15.345675
  • Coordinates: 45.456488, 15.345675
  • Pushback from: Croatia, Slovenia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia, Croatia
  • Demographics: 21 person(s), age: 20-30 years old , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, threatening with guns, destruction of personal belongings
  • Police involved: At point of apprehension: 4 male officers in green uniforms, at Slovenian police station: 1 policewoman, 2 policemen in same green uniforms. At Croatian police station: one male officer in blue uniform. At Croatian-Bosnian border, 4 additional male police officers all in blue uniform. Respondent believes 2 were Croatian, 2 were Bosnian.
  • 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, no translator present
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Collective Aid

Original Report

In mid-November, an Iraqi man in his mid-twenties set out from Bihać (BiH) on his ninth border crossing attempt. He traveled alone, crossing into Croatia near Javornik-tisov Vrh nature reserve. He rose at 06:00 and walked in the forest throughout the day, stopping at 17:00 to sleep each night. He travelled like this for several days, seeing nobody else during this time, until he crossed into Slovenia near Vukova Gorica (approximate area around 45.456488, 15.345675).

On Tuesday, November 24 at approximately 15:00, the respondent was approximately 30 kilometers into the Slovenian interior in the forest when he encountered 4 officers. The officers were all male and wore green uniforms and carried pistols with them. The officers searched his belongings and made him sit on the ground for approximately 1 hour until a white police car with “police” written on it arrived. The driver of the car, also male wearing and the same uniform as the other officers, took his cell phone, power bank, and money. The respondent was placed in the back of the police car and was driven for less than one hour to a small village, where he was taken to the police station. One female officer and two male officers were at the station when he arrived, and when he was taken into the station a male officer hit him on the back of his legs with an unidentified object. While this was happening, the other officers shouted at him in Slovenian.

The respondent was then walked to a building resembling a caravan, where he was locked inside. The respondent is unsure of the timing of events as he did not have a phone or watch, but at some point in the evening he was given one small meal consisting of one small water bottle, a piece of bread, and a small can of meat. A short time later, he was let out of the caravan to take a shower and was able to access a toilet when he requested. He was given another small bottle of water later in the night. During this evening, they recorded his name and took his fingerprint and a photo of him. While they recorded his personal information, the respondent asked to claim asylum, and the officers verbally refused this request. He was then given documents written in Slovenian with no translation available, and officers told him the documents were to allow him to be taken to the camp in Ljubljana. He was taken back to the caravan and locked in for the remainder of the night.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 25, at an undetermined time, the respondent was driven in the back of a white police van with a closed back for approximately 4-5 hours until he arrived at a police station in an undetermined city in Croatia. He witnessed the van driver deliver the papers he signed in Slovenia to a Croatian officer at the department. This male officer was dressed in a blue uniform, and brought the respondent into a small room. The respondent was asked his name, age, parents’ names, and for his signature. Immediately after this information was given, the respondent was put in the back of a white police car with one male driver wearing a blue uniform. The respondent reports that the back of this police vehicle was “a closed box with no ventilation, no air, and no air escaping from it”. Hot air was blowing on him for the duration of the journey, and he felt very ill as a result. He emphasized that this experience is common among people who are returned from Croatia to Bosnia and that during this route many people experience dizziness, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

After being driven for 4-5 hours, the respondent exited the vehicle and saw a white Croatian police car parked in the forest, exact coordinates unknown, accompanied by two male officers in blue uniforms. The respondent also reported a Bosnian police car (also white) was parked nearby, also with two male officers in blue uniforms. When he stepped out of the vehicle, a group of approximately 20 other individuals were already gathered. The respondent reports that everyone in this group was approximately in their 20s or 30s, and were from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco and Algeria. The officers made the group take off their shoes and jackets and set these items on fire. While these items were burned, the officers yelled at them in Bosnian/Croatian.

At this time the sun was setting (approximately 16:30), and the officers told the group to gather in a nearby pathway and “start running”. The group did not know which direction they were running in, but one officer chased behind them with a pistol in his hand. The group ran for what felt like almost one hour, and at this point the officer chasing them turned around to head back to the vehicle. After the officer left them alone, the group stayed in the woods until the next morning (Thursday, November 26). When the sun rose the group walked to the center of Bihać, which the respondent believes was approximately 45 km away. They arrived to Bihać at approximately 14:00.