FUTO Students Wrongfully Arrested In Croatia After Competition Cry Out For Help’
2 Nigerian students of the Federal University of Technology Owerri who competed at the fifth World InterUniversities Championships in Pula, Croatia are begging to be returned home, after they were deported to Bosnia, where they are being detained.
18 year old Eboh Chinedu and Abia Alexandro in a chat with The Guardian, said they were victims of injustice and that the only reason they were forcibly taken to Bosnia is that they are black.
“We told the truth and we have evidence of it,” said Chinedu via telephone from an immigration centre in east Sarajevo where the pair are detained.
According to him, they were supposed to fly to Lagos from Zagreb on November 18, after the tournament, before they were picked up by the police the night before, who allegedly mistook them for undocumented immigrants
“The night before our departure, on the 17th, we checked out from the hostel and went for a walk in Zagreb,” said Chinedu.
“Suddenly … we were stopped by the police who asked us for our identification documents. We tried to explain that our passports were in the hostel and that we had a regular visa, but they paid no attention to what we were saying.
“There were men from Pakistan at the border.”
“They had been caught by the Croatians while attempting to cross the border from Bosnia. Police eventually ordered us to move through the woods. I refused and begged them one more time to check our status, but they wouldn’t listen. They kicked me in the back and told me they would shoot me if I didn’t move.”
Both students were eventually deported to Bosnia and ended up in a camp in VelikaKladuša, where thousands of migrants live in cramped tents without water or heating, and with temperatures as low as -2 degrees.
Police in Croatia denied any wrongdoing and raised doubts over the table tennis players’ intentions, suggesting they were lying. According to the police, another Nigerian who participated in the championship had attempted to cross the border with Slovenia from Croatia a few days before.
“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt, even abusing their participation in sports competitions in Croatia, to remain in the country or continue their journey illegally to other European countries,” Croatian police said.
“This is not true,” said Chinedu. “We were legal in Croatia. And our visa was valid until the December 3. If we wanted to seek asylum, we could have asked for it because we had visas.”
They said they were willing to go back to Croatia, but only on one condition, “If they take us back to Croatia, we want to have UN escorts with us. We will not go to Croatia without a UN representative. We are scared of the Croatian police after what they did to us.”
“We want to go back to Nigeria,” said Chinedu. “Please, help us, send us home immediately.”