The Nigerian students arrive at the Bosnian foreign office. PHOTO: Al Jazeera
Two Nigerian students of Federal University Owerri, Nigeria who arrived Croatia, Zagreb on November 12 to participate in the World University Championships in Pula were deported by Croatian security officials to Bosnia.
Croatian police claimed the students were in the country illegally, even though the students arrived in the country with valid visas.
The two students, Abie Uchenna Alexandra and Kenneth Chinedu were in the country to participate in the table tennis tournament. According to Al Jazeera report, the student headed from Pula to Zagreb after the table tennis tournament. They were scheduled to return Nigeria via Istanbul on November 18.
They encountered the Croatian police when they left the hotel they were staying to explore the city according to Sarajevo-based Zurnal.
The police stopped them for interrogation and later arrested them because they were not with their documents.
The students said the documents were in their hotel room and they tried to explain to the police but they weren’t ready to listen to them.
“They took us to the police station. We tried to explain who we were and that we had left our documents in the hostel. They didn’t pay attention to what we were saying,” said Chinedu.
Chinedu said the police officers then put them in a van and said they were “taking them to Bosnia”.
They drove the pair to the border, along with several others, and dumped them on the Bosnian side, near a forested area.
“I refused to go into the woods,” said Chinedu. “The officer told me he would shoot me if I didn’t move.”
After being chased, they reached the Miral Camp near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia.
Chinedu said they immediately contacted one of their fellow students who had stayed back in Zagreb, and asked him to send them their passports. However, they now faced a new problem: they were stuck in a camp and their Croatian visas were due to expire when they were due to get their flight home.
The students complained to representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which runs the Miral Camp, where it was confirmed that the students had been staying in Croatia legally.
Dean Sinkovic from the Faculty of Economics and Tourism in Pula confirmed to Al Jazeera that the students were competing in the table tennis tournament, that they had visas and an invitation letter from the university.
Emir Prcanovic, director of the Your Rights Organization, which is currently providing legal aid to the Nigerian students, told Al Jazeera that the documentation from the Croatian consulate proves the students’ legal status.
Alberto Tanghetti, a representative of the Inter-University Sports Committee and the organiser of the competition in Pula, said there were a total of five participants from Nigeria – four students and a professor – and confirmed they all had valid visas.
“The two students were participating in the competition, they had a Croatian visa, return plane tickets from Zagreb to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Lagos,” Tanghetti told Al Jazeera.
The world University Championships are part of the International University Sports Federation.