On the evening of September 5, 2020, a group of five men were detained in the village of Laafeld, Austria and subsequently pushed back through Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia. The countries of origin of the respondents were Syria, Tunisia, and Morocco, ranging in ages from ages 27-40.
The group had departed Bosnia ten days previously, first transiting through Croatia and Slovenia before reaching Austria. They crossed the border from Slovenia into Austria on the evening of September 5, and continued walking through the forest in the border village of Laafeld. At 7:30 PM, they were approached by five Austrian police officers, one of whom they said was wearing the dress of the military, the rest wearing regular Austrian police uniforms. They believed that a nearby farmer in the rural area had observed them walking through the forest and called the authorities. When they approached the group, the police asked them to stop and sit down with their hands up. They asked the group where they were from, their names, and their ages, and shortly after they loaded them into a police van with the blue and red Austrian police insignia on its sides and drove them to a Austrian police station.
Instead of taking them to a nearby police station, the respondents reported that they drove west along the border to a station a few hours away. They could not give a precise location, but thought that it was a station on the Austrian-Slovenian border, near to the Slovenian city of Maribor. They thought that it was close to Maribor because when they were later transported to a Slovenian police station, they noticed signs for Maribor not long after departing from Austria. It is possible they were detained in the Halbenrain, Mureck, or Straß in Steiermark stations.
When they arrived at the police station several hours later, they were fingerprinted and photographed, as well as asked to sign several documents in which no translation was provided. The Austrian police officers at the station inquired as to why they had been apprehended by the police and what their intentions behind being in Austria were, and then ordered the group to undress to their underwear and subsequently frisked them as well as searched their clothes. However, they did not forcibly take their mobile phones nor the rest of their possessions.
At around 6 AM the following day, they were transferred to the Slovenian authorities who drove them in a van that the respondents described as not having windows and being very hot. Upon arrival at the police station, believed by the respondents to be in the town of Ptuj, the group was again fingerprinted, photographed, and made to sign documents without a translator. An unspecified number of officers also told them that it was necessary for them to pay five hundred euros at the station, claiming that it was the “law” for migrants and required for their registration and further transit to Croatia and Bosnia. However, they did not report actually paying this fee in the end. They were also made to undress to their underwear and were searched at the Slovenian police station, though again, they returned their mobile phones and the rest of their possessions before they went to Croatia. At one point, the officers gave them sardines and bread.
After several hours in the Slovenian police station, two Slovenian officers drove them two hours to the Slovenian-Croatian border, where they waited to be transferred to the Croatian authorities. After an hour, three Croatian officers in blue uniforms arrived in one Croatian van. Instead of being taken to a border station, the group thought the authorities transported them to a regular police station in Zagreb. The group was also fingerprinted and photographed at the police station; they were not given food, water, or access to a toilet in Croatia. They stayed in the Zagreb police station for three or four hours.
Eight Croatian police officers drove the group to the Bosnian-Croatian border in the late afternoon, in a car that they said had no windows and was very hot. They arrived at a stretch of the border near to Buzim four hours later, and then made their way to Glinica, where they remained for the following weeks.
The group reported asking for asylum in every country that they were detained in–including Austria–but were denied further procedure each time.