On September 8, 2020, four men aged between 28 and 35 years – three from Algeria and one from Morocco – were walking through the forest in a mountainous area three and a half kilometers away from the Slovenian-Austrian border. They could not give a more precise location, but thought that they were on the eastern side of Slovenia as opposed to the side bordering Italy. At around 3:00 pm in the afternoon, they were apprehended by seven Slovenian authorities as well as three police dogs. As they had been walking in the forest, they did not know how the Slovenian police had discovered them.
When the Slovenian police spotted them walking, they yelled “Stop! Sit down with your hands up! If you do not stop, we will shoot!” The men complied with the order and sat down with their hands up. After approaching the men, they asked for their names and ages and countries of origin. The primary respondent, a thirty-three year old man from Algeria, said that when one member of the group reported his country of origin as Morocco, one Slovenian officer said “Fuck Morocco and all Moroccans”. The Slovenian officers also kicked them at some point while they were seated.
The group was then searched for weapons, and the Slovenian police also took their phones, power banks, and sleeping bags. They all proceeded to walk about twenty minutes to the main road, where they were then loaded into a Slovenian police van and driven to a police station about thirty-five minutes away.
When they arrived at the station, the primary respondent acted as a main interlocutor between the police and the rest of the group due to his ability to speak English more proficiently. When he asked for asylum in Slovenia the police said “No asylum for you, you must go back to your own country”. The police then demanded that they sign several documents. The respondent believed that one document was an acknowledgement of their deportation to Croatia and the other demanding a fee for illegally crossing the border. When the respondent stated that he did not want to sign the documents, and that the police should sign them instead, the officer said “Fuck you, you must make signature”. He then took the primary respondent into a separate room and proceeded to beat him with a baton until he finally relented and signed the documents. However, the respondent said that he did not end up paying a fee in the end. The Slovenian officers gave them a carton of sardines and some chocolate during their detainment at the station.
They then then loaded into another van and driven about one hour to the border of Slovenia and Croatia, where they were handed over to three Croatian officers. The Slovenian authorities also handed over the group’s phones and power banks to the Croatian authorities. When they arrived at the Croatian police station nearby, one Croatian officer showed the group the bag that held their phones and said to them “Say bye bye forever to your phones”; the respondent did not know what ended up happening to their phones. They were then held in a room for about an hour before they were photographed, fingerprinted, and asked for their names and countries of origin. Though the group asked several times if they could use the toilet, they were denied use each time.
At around six o’clock in the evening, they were driven by 2 Croatian police in blue uniforms to the Bosnian-Croatian border in a van with no windows. The men both wore masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 so the respondent could not describe what their faces looked like, but said that one was bald and the other had dark hair. The journey took about four hours, and the police would often drive very quickly and then suddenly and violently brake.
When they arrived at the Bosnian border several kilometers outside of Velika Kladuša, the Croatian police did not immediately let them out of the van, but stayed in the front of the van talking for about twenty minutes. Though he could not hear what they were saying, the primary respondent guessed that they were planning what they would do to them before the group returned to the Bosnian side. They then took out the members of the group one by one from the van.
When it was the turn of the primary respondent and he emerged from the van, he discovered that six different police officers with the black masks and black uniforms were waiting outside. They made him undress to his underwear, then burned his clothes and shoes in a fire in front of him. After, they forced him to lay facedown and told him “Do not speak, be quiet”. They beat him with a baton for what the respondent said felt like twenty minutes. When he tried to defend his head with his arm, the police beat his arm with additional fervor, resulting in a break. At some point, the respondent said to the police “Please stop, I am not a terrorist, I am only trying to cross the border, please from your humanity stop!”. One police officer responded “We are not human, we have no humanity”.
After they finished beating him, they screamed at him “Go to Bosnia!”. Because he did not immediately see his friends, he thought maybe the Croatian police had killed them, however the group reunited and stayed near the border for about thirty minutes, after which they all split up. Because of his broken arm, the primary respondent was able to get medical treatment at Miral camp. He stated that he was “just happy the police didn’t kill me”.