On the 5th of October, at what the respondents remember as about 10 am, a transit group of 21 men, 17 from Pakistan, 3 Afghan people, and one man from Algeria, ranging from 16 up to around 55 years of age, were apprehended by Slovenian authorities close to the highway E105 south of Novo Mesto, Slovenia.
The respondents said they were exhausted after they had been walking on foot for 14 days already, having crossed the entirety of Croatia territory on foot. They started from the outskirts of Bihać, about seven kilometers from the Bosnian-Croatian border, and had been sleeping under the open sky since then and were often without food and water.
Upon apprehension the respondent said that a Slovenian officer drew their gun at them, telling them to stop and not to move, although one respondent related they had assured them they would not run, as they were exhausted and without any food. The transit group then sat down, waiting, as the authorities called, what the respondent remembers as between five and ten officers in additional police cars. A respondent from the Punjab region of Pakistan reported exhaustedly:
“One police car came and he said ‘Don’t move! I am police, don’t run, stop!’ I say “We stop. We don’t have food. We don’t have full period [meaning sleep] for three days, we are not running.“
In total, the respondent remembered that in the end they were surrounded by somewhere between 22 and 25 Slovenian officers who had arrived in 15 cars. According to them some of the officers were wearing blue short-sleeve uniforms, some black uniforms with long sleeves. One member of the group that apprehended them was dressed in plain clothes and looked like a civilian.
They then took them and their belongings to a Slovenian police station the position of which the respondents were not able to determine, as the backs of the vans they were transported in were without windows. At the police station, the respondents said that about ten police officers were present.
One man, who during their day-long walking had fallen and obtained an injury which was causing him strong muscle pain in his thigh, got separated from the group and taken to the hospital by the authorities, only to be returned to the group in detention afterward.
During detention at the station, which lasted for two nights, one member of the group, the respondents added, was suffering from withdrawal symptoms as he did not consume any Marijuana for several days and became very upset after insistingly asking the authorities for asylum and subsequently being denied an asylum process: “We live in Slovenia, we want to work in your country. Please give us stay!”, Reportedly he also pleaded to the officers saying: “We die here if you don’t give us stay!”, to which the officers only replied “No, we don’t give you stay, go back to Bosnia!”
Out of complete desperation, the man then – after being denied again – tried to commit suicide by taking off the iron buckle piece from his belt and swallowing it. He then was taken by the police officers to what they thought was the hospital and since then has not been seen by the rest of the group.
At the police station the officers forced each of them to sign a number of documents, which the respondent said he did not want to sign and whose language, presumably Slovenian, he did not understand. No translation was provided, although they asked for it. Some respondents shared that they assumed it was a deportation paper. There were also two minors in the transit group aged about 16, which they declared, but the officers present asked each of them to write 18 as their age on the paper they signed.
Upon continuous request because of their hunger, the group was served another, third meal each day as opposed to the normal ratio of two per day. The respondents also remarked that the officers asked them suggestive questions about non-governmental organizations and people that had been helping them along the way, specifically also if those organizations, e.g. NGOs in Bosnia were giving drugs to them.
On the morning of the third day, the 7th of October, the respondents were driven to an unknown location on the Slovenian-Croatian border, ten of them in a van with five seats on each side and no windows in the back. From there they, along with their belongings, were handed over to what the respondents said were seven Croatian authorities who had come in three white vans and a car.
The Croatian officers wore black long-sleeved uniforms, their faces were covered with ski masks and they carried several weapons, including pistols and knives, which is consistent with the appearance of the Croatian Intervention Police. The interviewees stated several times that the police threatened to beat them with their batons.
After the officers had already taken almost all of their belongings, including their mobile phones, watches, power banks, bags, food and shoes – everything except their T-shirts and trousers – they continued to force them to lie flat on the ground, with one officer reaching out his gun from his lower right pocket and threatening them not to run away; which the interviewees reportedly tried to appease by saying that there was no point in running away after they were already without shoes and food.
“They don’t want to give us any evidence. That’s why the take all our stuff, mobile, everything. If we had mobiles we could take pictures of everything.”
One respondent from Punjab noted that despite the pain from the beatings, he was particularly outraged by how disrespectfully the officials treated their food, which they reportedly crushed with their feet. One respondent noted that the authorities specifically asked them to hand over all their money.
“I think Croatian police is big Ali Baba [word commonly used for thief], big thief. They take all of our money. They even speak ‘Do you have money, do you have Euro? Give us, give us!´”
Their contact with the Croatian officers lasted what the respondent estimated as five hours. Finally, around noon the authorities forced them into the back of the white vans without windows and dropped them at the Bosnia-Croatian border around 19 kilometers by car northeast of Velika Kladuša, and told them to cross back into Bosnia. From the point of pushback, the respondents said they walked for 25 km barefoot and only clothed with trousers and a T-shirt to Velika Kladuša from where they were able to take a bus back to Bihać.