Several groups in transit were walking together in the wooded area near Kočevje, Slovenia on 14th September 2019. In total, the combined group included fourteen men (from Morocco, Egypt, and Afghanistan) ranging in age from 21 years old to 32-40 years old.
At approximately 20.00 the group was spotted by Slovenian authorities. Approximately eight Slovenian authorities captured the group of fourteen men. The group was taken in two separate white police vans with no windows. The vans drove them to the local Kočevje police station (SLO).
At the police station the group members were permitted one small bottle of water each. The respondent expressed the intention to seek asylum and then spoke with a translator at the police station. The male translator was not from Morocco and according to the respondent, the translator seemed to not fully understand the respondent, or made out as though he did not.
The respondent tried to speak in English directly to a male Slovenian authority but was told to only speak to the translator. As the respondent spoke with the translator, another Slovenian authority typed the questions and answers on a computer in the detainment room. The group was detained at the Kočevje police station from approximately 20.00 on the 14th September until mid afternoon on the 15th of September.
Following detainment at the Kočevje police station (SLO) the group was transported to the Croatian border. There, two white police vans with no windows or seat belts took the fourteen men on into the interior. The temperature was extremely hot inside the van. The male officer driving made many fast turns, often throwing the respondent off the bench in the back of the van. During the six-seven hour trip inside the van the respondent vomited three times. The respondent reports that other members of the group vomited “the whole time.”
The vans arrived at a police station in Croatia. At the police station the group was detained a second time. Respondents arrived before sunset, having left from detention in Slovenia at mid afternoon. At the Croatian police station the respondents were denied water, food, and access to toilets. There was no translator present.
Approximately three hours after it became dark the respondents were taken outside to be transported again. They were driven a short distance to and then unloaded from the vans. Approximately twelve Croatian officers dressed in all black and wearing black ski masks were waiting as they exited the vehicles. The officer took all bags as well as clothing from inside the bags and the clothes which the respondents were wearing at the time.
The entire group had their shoes taken and two power banks were also confiscated. A total of 117 euros were taken from the respondent’s bag and pockets. The euros were then put into the pockets of one Croatian authority. Phones were taken by the officers and broken using batons so that the screens were cracked and the back of the phone was no longer attached. All other personal belongings were laid into a pile and set on fire by the Croatian police. The respondent was forced to watch his belongings burn.
The Croatian police used their fists to hit the group in their faces. Batons were used by the Croatian police to hit their hands, backs, ankles, and feet. When the assaults had finished, the officers ordered them to run.The respondent began running immediately without heeding any specific direction. He only slowed down to a walking pace about 30 minutes after leaving the Croatian authorities, describing how:
“Running (was) scary. I don’t know what direction… only running.”
From their return journey on foot, the respondents suggest they were pushed back approximately one hours walk from Šturlić. The group members were dispersed by the attacks of the officers and so returned seperately. The respondent and two other members of the group continued on foot and walked through the night to Velika Kladuša with no shoes. In the morning a local man offered the three in transit some T-shirts and two old pairs of shoes.
The respondent suffered severe contusion to the upper part of his right hand (as pictured in Figure 1 & 2). The respondent’s right wrist was also swollen as a result of the Croatian authorities beating the hands and arms with a baton. A second group member had swelling on the top of his left foot (see Figure 4). In comparison to the right foot, the bones were not visible because of the amount of swelling. According to staff at the Medecin sans Frontier (MSF) field clinic, this injury was a severe sprain. All three of the respondents had also suffered damage (such as missing toe nails) as a result of walking and running for hours with no shoes or socks, which had been confiscated by the police during the pushbacks (see Figure 3).