In this case five Algerian men, aged between 22 and 30 years old, were subject to a chain push-back from Italy to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The concerned group, initially 6 people, were first apprehended by three Italian military officers early on the 8th October 2020, about 3 kilometers outside Trieste, Italy (45.607871, 13.857776). In the previous week they had made their way to Italy on foot from Bosnia-Herzegovina via Croatia and Slovenia. Reportedly, the military personnel then called the local police, who drove up to the group in a van which they were then loaded into and taken to a large tent located at the rear of a migration camp (Silos) in the city Trieste.
According to the respondent, there were already about 60 to 70 other people in the tent, most of them from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The group waited in the tent for a total of about 6 hours until an officer entered the tent and separated the people upon their nationalities. The members of the affected group were taken to a smaller tent with another man from Morocco. Each man was then questioned and processed individually in a separate, smaller tent, described as a small silo, the others had to wait in a small room which he describes as a “prison-room”. Personal data was gathered, fingerprints were recorded, photos of their faces were taken and the group members had to sign a document.
“When they deport you, they make you sign this paper so that they can say you accept it. And of course, you sign it. who care about you? They just say: ‘sign’ and you sign, because you don’t have power and there is no one listening to you.”
During this interrogation, the wish to seek asylum was declared several times by the respondent. However only one member of the group, who had been already registered in Greece, and the other men from Morocco, were eventually allowed to stay in Trieste. The respondent explained that there was a translator present, who also came from Morocco, and the testimony therefore got the impression, that the translator acted in favor of the Moroccan men. “Translator plays a big role. Maybe 80%”.
The five remaining group members were then put into a very small vehicle and brought back to the border of Slovenia. The vehicle did not have either windows or light and the respondent described experiencing difficulties to breath during the ride. At this point the people-on-the-move received a small bottle of water and a small cracker for the first time since the apprehending.
“They play with you. You just think just when is it finish.”
At the border they were transferred to the custody of Slovenian authorities and subsequently taken to an unknown police station, where they were put into a place which the respondent described as a Caravan. They stayed in this this location for what the respondent estimated to be around 24 hours before they were put into another, larger van. During this detention the group members could use the toilet and were handed another small bottle of water but were not provided with any food. The respondent identified the van that they were put in afterwards to be a Croatian police car. Concerning the ride to Croatia he described that the driver was driving very bumpy, braking very sharply at any given moment.
“you know, they really try to make you hate yourself. For what you have done and so you never try again to cross border to Croatia.”
In Croatia they had to wait for 15 hours, from 10:00 am to 1:00 am in the van. “If they deport you in the day you stay in the police car all day till it gets night. If they deport you in the night, they let you go directly.” During this time they were not provided with any food or water and just left alone in the car. While they were waiting few other people on the move were brought into the van by Croatian police officers, so that they ended up being about 12-15 people in the van. Finally, at around 1:00 am on October 11th, two Croatian police officers drove the van to the border of Bosnian territory about 10 kilometers out of Bihac.
When they arrived to this location, the respondent described that a Croatian officer wearing a dark uniform and a black ski-mask with a big German Shepherd told them to leave the van and line up in a file. The group-members were then told to get undressed to their boxers and a T-shirt. The officer took all of the clothes, put them on a pile and set them on fire. Another officer was waiting behind the wheel of the vehicle during the procedure. The men then had to line up in a row, crowded closely together. The policeman yelled: “haide, go,go,go,go” and let the dog off the leash, which immediately snapped at the arm of the man in the last position in the row. The other men were able to run away in this way, but the last one apparently received a severe wound in his arm.
The respondent then walked another 24 hours back to Velika Kladusa, where he started his journey.