Two Nigerian student table tennis players who were wrongly deported to neighboring Bosnia from Croatia have now returned home.
Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu arrived in Croatia on November 12 to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, according to The Guardian.
The pair were picked up by the pair by police in Zagreb, who believed that they were undocumented migrants – despite their having correct visa applications for a brief stay.
They were detained by police on November 17, the night before their departure.
“We tried to explain that our passports were in the hostel and that we had a regular visa, but they [the police] paid no attention to what we were saying,” Chinedu said to the local press in Bosnia.
The officials, having mistaken the pair for undocumented migrants, had them driver to the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina where they were transferred to a migrant camp along with other migrants who attempted to cross the countries’ border.
On their arrival to the camp, Chinedu recounts his experience:
“We don’t know what time it was, but it was dark … They took us out of the station and put us in a van. They drove us to an unknown place. Two police officers told us ‘you are going to Bosnia’. I’ve never been to Bosnia. I came by plane to Zagreb, I told them I didn’t know Bosnia. They told us no, you are going to Bosnia. After a while, the van stopped and we were pushed into the bushes. I refused to go into the woods, then the cop told me if I didn’t move he was going to shoot me.”
“I 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.”
Uchenna and Chinedu were later transferred to another camp in East Sarajevo where they were held for sixteen days until their final departure.
Dragan Mektić, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s minister of security, said: “Those people are victims of illegal acts on the Croatian side.
“It is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them.”
In relation to what became something of an international incident, the Croatian police told The Guardian: “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.”
The Croatian police went onto suggest that the two students had deliberately missed their return flight home: “We have information about their legal entry into Croatia, but not their exit, which, according to their return tickets, was supposed to take place on 17 November this year.’’