The respondent is a 21-year-old man from Afghanistan. He left Bihać, BiH with eight other people on the 8th of September 2021. The group was composed of two minors and other 6 men, whose ages range from 18 to 21. All group members stem from Afghanistan or Pakistan.
After reaching the border area around Sturlić, BiH by taxi, they crossed the border into Croatia by foot on the same day. They then continued to walk for 11 days and managed to cross the border into Slovenia. Inside Slovenia, they were discovered as they were crossing highway A1 on September 19 at around 11 am. Two of the group members were walking a little ahead of the group and therefore managed to reach Italy without getting apprehended.
The respondent suspected that some sort of video camera with sensors must have spotted them while they were walking in the forest. The respondent assumes this because as soon as three Slovenian border police officers arrived, they started to question them about the two missing people – hence, the officers must have seen the whole group prior to the apprehension. The police then called about ten special force officers (wearing military uniforms) to search for the two people who had escaped in the forest.
The Slovenian special forces took shoes, mobile phones, power banks, and money from the group members but kicked only one of them. They were frisking them and checked all of their clothes, including the insides of their trousers, in order to find the cash they were carrying. According to the respondent, the Slovenian police tend to keep the euros they can find on the people on the move. The respondent had 65 euros with him and he recalls that the rest of the group was carrying approximately the same amount of cash. After about half an hour, they were all forced inside the back of a police van. There was no oxygen on the van, as it was totally overcrowded and the police turned the air condition to hot temperatures. Two people passed out during the ride. The respondent describes that they were totally unconscious.
“They treat us like animals, not humans. You can say that you are a very strong person but in this situation, you will crash. Because we are immigrants, that’s why they treat us like animals, maybe animals are treated better than us.”
After about one hour at 11 am, they crossed the border between Slovenia and Croatia and Croatian police took over the van. They drove the vehicle for some hours and stopped in an unknown location. The Croatian police officers were wearing balaclava masks, which leads to the assumption that they are part of the Croatian Intervention police. The respondent describes that these officers struck all of the men. Slovenian police had kept the men’s cash and handed all their other possessions over to the Croatian police, who later burned everything in a fire, including their shoes.
The group was kept captive in the vehicle for the rest of the day. They were kicking the doors from inside because they could not breathe anymore. While they were inside the car, they were denied food and water, as well as access to the toilet. Terrified and exhausted, they had lost any perception of time and geography. The Croatian police waited until about 2 am to release them at the border with Bosnia, somewhere in the mountains close to Bihać. The respondent describes this pushback as a very traumatizing event, from which he has hardly recovered physically and mentally so far.