Two Nigerian students, who were in Croatia for a sports competition and had visas, say they were wrongly deported to Bosnia. Croatian police likely suspected them of being illegal migrants based only on their skin color.
This case is making waves in Croatia and beyond: Nigerian nationals Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu were reportedly deported to Bosnia even though they entered Croatia legally. In Mid-November, the students participated in a table tennis tournament in Pula, Croatia.
The two students told the Bosnian website zurnal.info in an interview published Tuesday that they went from Pula to the Croatian capital Zagreb on November 17 to do some sightseeing prior to their flight back to Nigeria the following day. They said they were stopped by police in Zagreb, and couldn’t show their passports because they had left them in the hotel. “We tried to explain who we were and that our documents were in the hostel, but they took us to a police station,” Chinedu told the website. “They paid no attention to what we were saying.” The two Nigerians said that police deported them to Bosnia, forcing them to cross at night by foot in a wooded area. Three weeks later, they are still stuck in Bosnia.
British newspaper The Guardian also published a story on the case on Thursday. According to the report, the two 18-year-old Nigerian students ended up at the Velika Kladusa camp, where where thousands of migrants are staying in tents without eating, even though temperatures are as low as -2 degrees Celsius.
The students’ story was reported on by many Croatian press outlets, drawing criticism of the police, with many describing the officer’s actions as racist.
Croatian police, however, have denied the Nigerians’ story. According to The Guardian, the interior ministry confirmed that the two students had visas, but suggested that they were attempting to stay in the country. Officials said that before the two were stopped by police, they had left their hotel in Zagreb, paying the bill and taking their documents with them.
But this does not explain why police forced the two men to go to Bosnia — even though they entered the country by flying into Zagreb airport. Police said that their exit from the country isn’t documented and that the units that work in illegal migration said they had no contact with the two young men, ANSA reports.