Allegations of the abduction and forced expulsion of two Nigerian students to Bosnia by the Croatia police (MUP) has received wide attention in the Croatian media since the Bosnian portal Žurnal broke the story on December 3. More details have emerged, which have led to even more questions, and credibility issues are muddying the narrative.
After yesterday’s official statement from MUP regarding the alleged incident, additional details are emerging, some of which may contradict MUP claims. While the story is being covered extensively in Croatian media, most of the basic questions about this alleged incident haven’t even been addressed.
There are possible credibility issues with a member of the Nigerian group and proven credibility issues with MUP. No witnesses have come forward to corroborate the Nigerian students’ allegations. One member of their group claimed asylum in Croatia on November 27, which may help support the MUP claim that people from third countries are using sports competitions to enter the EU.
However, several world news organizations have disproven MUP’s repeated denials of an aggressive pushback policy toward illegal migrants. Here’s what we still don’t know.
What was the groups’ actual flight itinerary?
According to MUP, the group of five Nigerians, one leader and four students, arrived in Croatia on November 12. The leader and one student departed Croatia via the Zagreb airport on November 17. The students claim that their return flight departed on November 18, which meant that they had arrived on the same flight with the others but wouldn’t be returning to Nigeria on the same flight.
What Zagreb hostel did the students check into?
MUP has not provided the name of the hostel and the students claim that they don’t remember the name, as they had just checked in, before setting off on a stroll through the city.
What date did the students check into that unidentified Zagreb hostel?
MUP claims they checked in on November 16, rather than November 17, as the students claim. Alberto Tanghetti, the organizer of the 5th World InterUniversities Championships in Pula supports the students’ claim and indicated that the students left Pula for Zagreb on November 17 to make their November 18 flight.
Are there any witnesses to the students’ alleged abduction by Croatian police on the Zagreb tram?
The sight of police removing the students from a tram in a large busy city for no apparent reason (they weren’t disturbing the peace) would have produced witnesses. So far no one has come forward.
Who sent the students their passports?
In yesterday’s statement, MUP claimed that the students checked out of their Zagreb hostel on November 18 and took their passports and belongings with them. However, sources now confirm that the students didn’t have their passports with them when they entered Bosnia. An unidentified friend from the competition sent the students’ passports from the unidentified Zagreb hostel to Bosnia. The students received their passports on November 25, nine days after their alleged abduction and expulsion from Croatia.
Where is the students’ luggage?
If the students weren’t allowed to return to the unidentified Zagreb hostel, the hostel would have had their luggage as well as their passports. They would have packed for a five-day trip. Where is their luggage now?
Why would the Croatian police expel the students to Bosnia, when it would have been much easier, and legal, to allow them to catch their return flights to Nigeria?
It would have been very easy for the Croatian police to physically go with the students to the unidentified Zagreb hostel and confirm they were registered there. In addition, by law, every traveler visiting Croatia must furnish their passports to the front desk (or host) of their accommodations upon arrival, as part of the registration process. That information is reported to MUP, so they should have been able to confirm where the students were staying. Why would the Zagreb police detain the students for hours, for no apparent reason, and allegedly send them in a van to Bosnia? Furthermore, in an interview for Index, Željko Cvrtila, an experienced criminologist, emphasized that the Croatian police could have only legally deported them back to Nigeria, as they had valid visas for their stay in Croatia.
If MUP has no record or evidence that the students crossed the Bosnian border, what does that say about the effectiveness of the MUP effort to control the border?
If MUP has no record of the students’ whereabouts and was not able to intersect the students’ illegal and forced expulsion into Bosnia, it would seem to suggest that Croatia still lacks effective tools, surveillance and manpower to monitor and control illegal movement across the border.
Are there any witnesses who can corroborate the students’ arrival and length of stay in Bosnia?
According to the students, they were abducted by Zagreb police on November 17 and taken in a van to the Bosnian border with a group of illegal migrants. That also means that they have allegedly been in Bosnia for 2 ½ weeks.
Is there additional information on the fourth student who sought asylum in Croatia?
According to MUP, the group leader and one of the four students returned to Nigeria on November 17. Another remained in Croatia and tried to enter Slovenia twice, but was denied entry because he did not have a Schengen passport. MUP claims that he reported his passport lost on November 18 and refused an alleged offer from the MUP central station in Zagreb to contact the Nigerian embassy on his behalf. On November 27, the student returned and filed a claim for asylum and is currently being housed in an asylum center in Zagreb.
Did the students perform competitively at the 5th World InterUniversities Championships?
Zoran Ničeno, Director of Border Security, claims in an interview with Dnevnik Nove TV that they had confirmed with organizers that the students fared very poorly at the 5th World InterUniversities Championships and lost every match. He then implied that they may not have been professionally trained for the sport and were simply using the competition as a way of entering the EU. While varied resources and levels of training can produce performance gaps among contestants in international competitions, videos of the students at the event might reveal their proficiency in the sport they flew to Croatia to compete in.
What about MUP’s claims that the students may have been involved with illegal smugglers?
In the same interview, Ničeno claimed that they have information that the students may have been involved with illegal smugglers. What evidence do they have to support that claim?
Did Bosnian officials offer to help the students return to Nigeria?
Ničeno also claimed that Bosnian officials offered to help the students return home to Nigeria, but they allegedly refused and expressed a desire to return to Croatia and apply for asylum. Did this help offer include buying them one-way tickets home? Bosnian official have not confirmed Ničeno’s claims.
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