‘Croatian police stole our money’ — FUTO students held in refugee camp recount ordeal

Abia Uchenna and Eboh Chinedu, students of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), who were held in a Bosnian refugee camp, say their lives were threatened and their money stolen.

Both men had attended an international table tennis competition in Croatia and were preparing to return to Lagos via Istanbul, Turkey, on November 18 when they were arrested by Croatian police officers.

They were subsequently taken to the Bosnia-Herzegovina border, where Croatian authorities had gathered a group of illegal migrants attempting to cross into the country.

Narrating their ordeal upon their arrival on Saturday, when they were hosted by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission in Abuja, the students alleged the Croatian police stole their money.

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They said their phones and wallets were initially seized from them when they were arrested, but the items were returned, the sums of  €310 and $10 were missing.

“We crashed out of the tennis championships in the second stage, so we were supposed to return to Nigeria on November 18, 2019. A day before which is November 17, we decided to look around the city,” Abia, a 500-level student of computer science, said.

“When we were in Pula, we moved around and toured the city. In Zagreb, we decided to look around when a policeman stopped us and demanded to know our identity.

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“We explained to him that we are Nigerians and that we participated in a table tennis championship, but the problem I noticed was that he did not speak English.

“So, he said we should sit on the ground along the road. He made a call and another policeman came and they took us to a police station. They collected our wallets and phones.”

The trip, he said took over seven hours, and that at some point, they were transferred into another van with 12 illegal migrants from Pakistan, Indian and other countries.

“They drove us again for over four hours, then they stopped and asked everyone to sign a document that was written in their language without translation. I signed it out of fear, but Chinedu refused and the policeman kicked him, cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him. So, he signed,” he said.

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“They put us back in the van again and drove us for about two hours. When we got to a forest, they ordered everyone out of the van. They gave me a carton containing our phones, belts and wallets and the €310 and $10 dollars were not there.”

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