Croatia police forcefully deported two Nigerian table tennis players to Bosnia-Herzegovina after they were mistaken for illegal migrants struggling to make their way to the EU. The table tennis players identified as Uchenna Abia and Kenneth Eboh have finally returned home safely and have expressed that they are happy to be home.
Both students travelled to Croatia for a table tennis tournament last month but said Croatia police forced them into Bosnia, where they were taken to a migrant camp. Although Croatia’s interior ministry claimed it did not know how they both ended up there.
Here’s their story
Mr Uchenna Abia and Mr Kenneth Eboh traveled to Croatia legally last month to participate in a student table tennis tournament in the city of Pula.
The returnees said they were walk in the capital Zagreb ahead of their scheduled return to Nigeria when Croatian police officers arrested them, and drove them to the border, and forced them at gun-point to cross into Bosnia, a city where they know no one.
“They forced us inside a bush in Bosnia. We didn’t have any choice because they tried to shoot us. They said that ‘you are from Bosnia, you have to go to Bosnia.” Mr Eboh told the BBC.
”All attempts to communicate with the officials and explain that we had valid visas were ignored and we don’t know the reason why they sent us to another country at midnight… and they forced us to go through the bush,” Mr Eboh said.
”We were then held in a migrant camp near the border town of Velika Kladsa, where our mobile phones were confiscated.”
Bosnia happens to be a major route into the EU, with about 45,000 migrants coming into the country since the beginning of 2018. Aid organizations have warned of a humanitarian disaster happening there, with people facing a winter without proper accommodation warm clothing.
While speaking on their experience in Bosnia, Mr Abia said the people in Bosnia are “friendly”, and thanked Bosnian volunteers who visited the camp and gave them food to eat.
So far, the Croatian government has denied the allegations, claiming that the students disappeared after checking out of their hotel voluntarily. Moreover, A ministry spokesperson said officials were investigating if it was “another attempt by foreign citizens to abuse attending a sporting tournament in Croatia” to stay in Europe.
A lot of migrants who attempted to access the EU through Croatia claimed earlier this year that they were badly assaulted by Croatian police and illegally expelled back to Bosnia.