According to yesterday’s interview for a Bosnian portal, the Nigerian students say they want to go home to Nigeria immediately. If the Bosnian authorities intend to transfer them back to Croatia, they will only agree to go if they are accompanied by United Nations escorts.
Azra Omerović, of the Bosnian portal Žurnal, caught up with the students in East Sarajevo on December 10, 2019.
Original Žurnal Story Went Viral
On December 3, Žurnal published the story of two Nigerian students, Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, who allege that Croatian police illegally transferred them to Bosnia and Herzegovina. That story was picked up by several international publications including The Guardian and The Cable, a Nigerian portal. In the meantime, the students were transferred from Velika Kladuša to the Immigration Center in East Sarajevo, after being detained for questioning in Bihać.
The Croatian Ministry of Interior has dismissed allegations by the Nigerian students that they had been illegally transferred to Bosnia by the Croatian police.
Youth Hostel Manager Denies Students’ Account
Branimir Markač, the manager of HI Youth Hostel, the Zagreb hostel where the students stayed, has also disputed the students’ arrival and departure dates. He also denies that the students disappeared on the evening of November 17. He dismisses the students’ claims that an unidentified “friend” later came to pick up their passports, which they claim remained at his hostel after the students were allegedly “kidnapped” by Croatian police. The fact that the students could not remember the name of their hostel further muddies the narrative. There is unconfirmed speculation that the unidentified “friend” might be the other student in their group, who tried to enter Slovenia twice, applied for asylum in Croatia and is currently being housed in Zagreb.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Intervened
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairperson of Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), responded to the students’ claims on Saturday, after their account was picked up by The Cable in Nigeria.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs is on this matter. It’s not as straightforward as you have reported, but the Minister has personally intervened. We should give an update as the intervention continues,” she wrote.
In their most recent interview with Žurnal, students say they cannot believe what is happening to them and have responded to allegations by the Croatian media and police.
We are Telling the Truth!
“We are scared, we were telling the truth about what the Croatian police did to us. They have accused us of lying because we want asylum in Croatia. We were legal in Croatia, and if we had wanted to seek asylum, we could have applied for it because we had visas,” Kenneth Chinedu insists.
The two Nigerian students are currently being housed in East Sarajevo, at the Center for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia. They say that they have been in custody the entire time.
Currently in Custody in East Sarajevo
“The police questioned us. We told them what happened, and we’ve been in custody here ever since. We are not allowed to go outside and we’re not doing well at all. We need help, have someone help us. Send us home immediately or allow us to be escorted back to Croatia with UN representatives. We will not go to Croatia without UN representatives, maintains Alexandro.
Students Demand UN Escorts for Croatia
“If they want to send us to Croatia, we must be accompanied by the UN. They (the Croatian police) denied everything we said they did to us. We need someone to accompany us every moment and to keep track of what’s happening. We are terrified of returning to Croatia after everything that they have done to us. We told the truth and stand by our story!” Alexandro reiterates.
Nigerian Official: There is ‘Back Story’
The Nigerian students are asking the Bosnian authorities to resolve their situation as quickly as possible because they did not enter Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally. However, the details of their transfer to Bosnia remain in dispute, and top Nigerian government official Abike Dabiri-Erewa confirmed that there is a “back story”.
“But whatever the circumstances, the most important thing is to get them back,” she emphasized in Saturday’s tweet.
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