/from a testimony collected by Fresh Response in North-Serbia/
26 June is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. As a migrant solidarity group in Hungary we have a very concrete reason to remember this date today.
“The policemen were humiliating us and laughing at us . They were beating us and joking while doing it. They were saying: “Fuck you! Fuck muslims! Muslims are animals”. They put us all in a line and made us sit down. They were asking each of us where we were from. During this they were still hitting us. It didn't matter if you were in the beginning or in the middle of the line. Whenever they felt like hitting you they would hit you. If one of us was sitting in a different way or if the line wasn't straight they would drag them out of the line they would beat them and push them back saying: “Sit straight!”. In my whole life I've never been that scared. I've never been beaten this way and I've never seen anyone that was beaten this way.”
/from a testimony collected by Fresh Response in North-Serbia/
26 June is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. As a migrant solidarity group in Hungary we have a very concrete reason to remember this date today.
Time and Date: 13.6.17 - Between 23:30-1:00 until 5:00am
Location Found: Horgos transit camp
Location of Violence: Hungarian side of the Serbian/Hungarian border
Demographics: 27 people, 2 minors: 12 & 16. 25, including minors, from Pakistan. One man from Iran, one man from Syria.
We walked approximately 5km into Hungary. We were sleeping in the jungle for approximately one hour to hide from the police, because we thought we were safe. Then, the police surrounded us and started beating everyone in the jungle. They called the dogs, german shepherds. They had this face covering (muzzles). They continued beating, kicking, punching and hitting us with sticks. Both official police sticks (batons), with sticks from the forest, and their torches. These official sticks hurt too much. There was one man who was very tall and looked
like a bodybuilder, he had on a blue shirt and army trousers. They kicked us in the face and groin, and said, “Welcome to Hungary”. Then, they put dirt into our faces and said again, “Welcome to Hungary.” After one and a half or two hours, they said, “Ok. Stand up.” and moved us from the jungle. They told us to make a line, and continued to beat us with official sticks and sticks from the jungle on our legs. There was a car playing loud Hungarian music. They poured beer and wine on the back of our necks. Then they told us to sit down in the line outside of the jungle. They had one dog named ‘Freki’ with a face cover, and told him to attack people one by
one. They kicked me in the face when I was sitting, and my nose started bleeding. Then, when the police saw my nose bleeding, he kicked me in the face again, and said, “Fuck you.” The police had pistol guns and the army had AK-47s. They took the pistols and held them to each of our heads.
Then, they told us to stand up and make a line, and start walking. As we were walking, they continued to beat us. They have a new, special person trained in this field. He was kicking and punching our faces and arms. We walked for one and a half hours, and they were still beating. We got to the main road, and they brought two vans. They brought us to the transit zone gate, and interviewed us one by one. They asked a series of questions: Where are you from? How old are you? What is your name? What is your mother’s name? Where do you want
to go? Then, they instructed us to unlock our phones and they checked everything. They checked our sim number and everything, and checked our belongings and pockets. Then Serbian police came to the fence, and the Hungarian police took the dog away. I think the Hungarian police would have beaten us again, but they didn’t want to in front of Serbian police because then the police would have been witnesses. The Hungarians asked how much money we had, and then gave it back to us. They didn’t do anything for the injuries. My nose continued bleeding for two hours, and when I arrived to the transit zone it was still bleeding, and their faces did not change at all. It took 5-6 minutes to check each person. Around 5:30 or 6:00am they opened the gate back to Serbia.
Time and Date: 12.6.17 - Between 2:00am until 5:00am
Date of Interview: 14.6.17
Location Interviewed: Palić
Location of Violence: (46.164050,19.806093)
Demographics: 14 people total: 13 from Afghanistan including one minor: age 16, and one man from Pakistan
“We crossed at around 11pm, at 2am, police catch. The army catch us first, and then police come. Army not beating so much, then the police beating and kicking. They told us to crouch down like this [fetal position] with our heads to the ground, and they beat us if we moved. We stayed down like this for 2 hours, and they beat us if we moved. After some time, new people [police] come in a car and beat us also during these two hours. Then a second car with police came and they beat [us] again for one more hour. Approximately three hours of beating total. They were also kicking and punching us. After, they walked us to the big road and told us to sit down. They lowered their guns at us and said to sit far apart from each other, then another car come and police started beating again. 5-6 cars came like this. They kicked one man in the penis and he passed out because it was so hard. When he woke up, he didn’t know where he was, and he was bleeding from his mouth. Police say they recognized him, one army man say 4-5 days ago this man tried before. 4-5 police beat this man. He went back to belgrade. The police beating another man, and they kicked him in the chest. He was vomiting today. The man they kicked in the penis was vomiting blood. The man from Pakistan was beaten worse because he was from Pakistan.
They continued to beat us on the side of the road, and many of us could not walk so well because we were in this crouched position for so long. There was police man with a beard that was too much of a problem. He was beating so much. They then took out the dog, and were just holding it on the leash, and letting it bark at people, but not freeing it. Then one police person said it was enough beating; he looked like a bodybuilder with short hair. Then two vans came to the side of the road, and brought us to the Horgoš transit zone. There was a Serbian police man staying at the gates where we come through back to Serbia. Before, Hungary was letting dogs chase people back on the Serbian side, so now have a police there, and Hungary does not beat there anymore. One Hungarian man collected our shoes. I asked for one minute to take my shoes off, and he [pepper] sprayed my face. There is are two small gates close to the patrol road which go through the two fences to the Serbian side. It is ~500m from the container camp. We were forced to read a paper and go through the gates. It said, “Don’t come again to Hungary illegally. If you want to come to Hungary, register in Serbia to cross. If you cross the border again, we will bring you to a closed camp or to court, and court will decide what to do.” There was a speaker on the fence saying, “This is property of Hungary.” They said this in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. We were made to read this paper outloud and they recorded us reading it. They also took pictures of everyone. One group photo, and then alone picture. All four sides: face, back, right and left sides. The Serbian Police always stand close to the gate, and then direct us to camp. They tell us to go get food and water there, and then take leave the transit camp after, but they let us rest there.’
You have probably seen the latest news about the violence against people seeking international protection at the Southern border of Hungary. Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. Since last summer and changing the law about the border crossing, more and more testimonies and reports about serious violence at the Southern borders of Hungary have been spread (eg. the UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International or lately the Doctors Without Borders, Fresh Response and the testimonies published on the blog of Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary).
The asylum legislation has become increasingly harsh and exclusionary in the past year:
since January the authorities decreased the number of applicants per day admitted to the transit zones once more. With the new asylum detention law, which detains everybody during the asylum procedure and the extremely harsh push-back laws (that the police is allowed to ‘escort back’ the migrants to the gates of the transit zones, meaning push backs to the other side of the fence) it is almost impossible to apply for asylum in Hungary now.
At the same time, the continuous growth of using weapons, armed forces and army-like preparations of the police, including newly formed and freshly recruited border hunter units, as well as the recent changes in the legislation worry us significantly - it’s like Hungary is in a war with people who are seeking asylum. Also, there are no official, transparent documentation about what is the connection of more and more weapons at the border, and the huge number of violence that happens, but we demand this to change.
Even if it is only a small gesture, there is something we can personally do: email the Ministry of Interior and demand them to take those uncountable cases of uniformed violence at the border seriously and start investigate these.
I tried to cross the Hungarian border on a night in February. We were four people, an Afghan family of three - a man a woman and 14-year old boy, and myself.
We didn’t manage to cross, we got caught on the Serbian side. The Hungarian border police saw us from far away, they were already there when we came. We were lying on the ground on the Serbian side of the border when they found us. It was 10 at night. It was about half a kilometer from the border. There was four of them, they were walking. They were dressed in blue uniforms, there was some kind of badge on them but they were shining torches in my eyes so I couldn’t see it. I know for sure they were Hungarians because of the language they spoke. They often come to the Serbian side when they see refugees hiding there.
They found us, they didn’t say anything. They shone torches in our eyes and made us stand up and put our hands up. Then they sprayed us. The spray burnt my eyes, I couldn’t open them, there was a lot of tears and a burning feeling. They sprayed us from a close distance, about half a foot. They kicked me and I fall down. They kicked the other man and a boy and they fall as well. The woman was still standing, they didn’t kick her, they just hit her once with a police baton and started beating us. They concentrated on our arms and legs. More than anything they were kicking us on our legs and knees. They were beating us for 15 or 20 minutes.
Photo: Mario BADAGLIACCA
The reason why my leg got fractured is because they were hitting me very hard with the handle of the baton, they weren’t using the long bit. Before they’d beaten us they made us take off our jackets, gloves, hats and boots. They let us keep one shoe each. They took our socks off. They let each of us keep only one trousers and one t-shirt. They made the woman take off her jacket. They started searching through our clothes. They switched the mobile phones on. My battery was dead so the policeman took a baton and broke the screen.
They took our money and ripped off in front of us. I had 70 euros and the Afghan family had 150. We were still standing in only t-shirt, trousers and one shoe on at the time. It was very cold, the frost was falling and it was about 10 degrees below zero. After that they said to us: Go away! Go back!
It was after eleven when they let us go. Later we were sitting on the ground when the Serbian [border] police arrived. They asked us why we are sitting here. We said we were beaten by Hungarian police. One policeman saw my leg and called an ambulance. It came and they bandaged me on the spot. They called us a taxi to Subotica. The Afghan family went to Sid, I don’t know their names. Serbian police didn’t make the report, they only do that when you come back from the Hungarian side and we didn’t cross.
I crossed the Hungarian border on a night in January, we were 30 people. After we got through the fence we walked forward a little bit, maybe half a kilometer. They caught us and they brought us back to the border near Horgos. We were transported in a green car. Three of them were wearing full army uniforms, the rest were around 10 police officers in blue uniforms, not many badges on them. There was some kind of marking on the uniforms but I weren't allowed to look up, so I didn't see them. At the end there were 4 or 5 police cars, 2 or 3 small ones and the rest was big vans. They were white with some markings on them, like regular police cars. There was one black van. I'm not sure if it was black or blue, it was very dark.
There was a mud track next to the border fence, they made us sit in this mud track in a line. We had to put our hands on our necks and put the heads down. They'd kept us in the mud from 1am to 3am, before deporting us. They were punching and kicking us. There was one dog, they took a muzzle off it for 5 minutes and took it around to scare us. They didn't release the dog completely, but they were keeping it on a short leash and putting it very close to us. Then they put the muzzle back on, but it was still clawing on us, even on our faces. They took the dog away 10 minutes before they let us go. They took one of us out of the line and they took all his clothes, leaving only a shirt and trousers and then they searched us. They left us all in one shirt and one pair of trousers.
There was one man and one lady, they were looking through our phones. They found something on one person's phone and this man got beaten more than any of us. They've beaten him so badly that there was blood coming out of his ears. I don't know what it was, what they found, he was a regular refugee, he wasn't anyone special. They broke everyone's phones but more than anything they beat us. They were indiscriminate with their beatings, it didn't matter to them where they were beating us. They were using police batons and their hands.
The money they found on us was ripped off and thrown on the ground. They took one shoe from each of us, if somebody had really bad shoes they let them keep them, if the shoes were good they were taking one of them. The water they'd found in our bags was poured on our heads, food was thrown away. It was minus 14 or 15 this night. It was really really cold. A lot of people got very sick afterwards.
Later on they gave us back one jacket each. They only did it after one of us got really sick. He was in a very bad shape so they gave it back. When we were in the line they made us look down, anyone who would look up would get beaten. The women police officers were hitting us with the batons on our private parts.
They made us go back to the border, in groups of two. They made a video where they took our names, two by two. Then they sprayed us and two of them came with us to the Serbian side. At the beginning they didn't spray all of us, they'd only spray you when you did something or said something you shouldn't say. Those people were not on videos, they moved them to the side and they filmed everyone else. It was after the videos were taken when they did it to everybody. If anyone would try to touch their eyes their hands would get smacked. You can't see anything for two or three hours. It's spicy. And there are tears and tears and tears. Your eyes get red. Your face gets swollen and red.
There were four 15-year old Afghan boys with us, they were treated the same way. The policemen don't look how old you are, when they see you they start beating you. They were drunk. They're always drunk, men and women. We could've smelled it during the search, when they were getting very close to us.
At a night in January I made an attempt to cross the Hungarian border. 48 people were with me, but 9 of them got scared just before the border fence and decided to go back. The rest of us succeeded and managed to get across the border onto the Hungarian side.
We were walking through the forest about 15 kilometers north of the border when we heard cars coming and decided to hide. 4 marked police cars arrived. There were around 15 policemen with trained dogs, heat-sensors and handguns. They saw us in the light. They rounded us up, and released dogs on us.
Then, without asking any questions first, the police officers started kicking and beating us. Afterwards they searched each of us, checking pockets and backpacks, destroying money and smartphones. Money was shred up in front of our faces, smartphones smashed on the ground. Policemen took out batteries and SIM cards from each phone and destroyed them separately.
Then they collected all the warm clothing we had: jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, shoes and socks, leaving us only in light jumpers and trousers. Every person who wore more than one pair of trousers was told to take them off.
Meanwhile, one more police car came. Newly arrived officers joined the rest. They hit one of my friends with a stick, severely cutting his head. Then they ordered all of us to sit in a line, with our legs spread, hands on our knees and bowed heads, and started pouring the water they had found in the bags on our heads and clothes.
After that they ordered one man to stand up with his hands behind his back. One of the police officers grabbed him by his collar, threw him on the ground and put a gun against his head. When the victim started crying and begging for mercy the officer took his gun away while another policeman put his leg on the man’s neck and held him down so others could kick him.
Then everyone had the dogs released on them again. When we were trying to back off to escape the dogs, police officers were on the other side of us, kicking us back towards the dogs. This was repeated several times. In the meantime, some policemen were drinking tea in the car observing and laughing at us.
When the 'game' was over they put us in police cars and drove back to the Serbian border. They set the air-conditioning to maximum in order to lower the temperature. We were brought back to the border where we were forced to read aloud a statement showed to us on a piece of paper, written in Urdu (there were also versions in Pashto and Farsi), saying that we crossed the border illegally and that we didn’t experience any verbal or physical violence from the Hungarian side. Those who didn’t read loud enough were yelled at and threatened. While reading the statements, we were recorded by the officers.
Afterwards, at around 8 in the morning, we were passed over to the Serbian side. The Serbians received us and ordered us to go towards Horgos, but as we knew there’s no shelter in Horgos except for the unofficial camp at the transit zone. Only some of us got their wet shoes or socks back, so we took off some of the remaining clothes we had and wrapped them around our feet before starting to walk backwards.
The temperature was down to -7 degrees at the time and it was snowing.
I crossed the Hungarian border in a group of 40 people. Some of us ran through the border and ran away. 14 people including me stayed behind and got caught. 6 or 7 police cars came with 2 or 4 police officers in each of them. They had 2 dogs with them. The first thing they did was spraying our eyes with teargas. Then they made me and 3 other people take our shoes off and stand in the snow. They were hitting us with police batons and kicking. Policemen were wearing dark blue uniforms. Two of them were dressed differently, they had some kind of military trousers on. I can't tell you how they looked like. They don't let us look at their faces, if you look at them they hit you and say: “put your head down!” One of them was tall, skinny and had a beard about an inch long and a moustache. He was the one hitting us the most. Another one was older and fat, he had a dog. They told us to put our hands up. When you put your hands down they would hit you. We were standing in the snow, and they took our hats.
They took us to a police van. There was 6 or 7 cars in total, but they put us in one van. When we drove to the border two other cars went with us. At the border they took us out of the van and made us form a line again. Then they released dogs on us. They took pictures and videos of us. They were filming our shoes and faces. They made us read aloud a paper saying that we need to come through legal ways. I couldn't read myself but my friend did.
About one week ago I crossed the Hungarian border, sometime around midnight. We were between 30 and 35 people, there were 4 or 5 minors and 10 to 15 people my age and older. We got through in the first try and we kept on walking for about 2 hours. We saw a helicopter above us, it had a flashing light and they saw us. There was about 40 police officers and there were some women with them. We hid in an apple orchard between the trees but they found us. They caught us, they didn't say anything, just started hitting us. They were kicking us as well. They didn't ask any questions beforehand. They were beating us for half an hour. Sometimes they were hitting us with black batons sometimes kicking us. I got kicked right in the stomach. There was a tall man, he was hitting us the most. They had 3 or 4 dogs and were using them to scare us, releasing them on us and pulling them back. They made us take our clothes off and searched our pockets and our things. Anything that was in our bags they kicked it out. When we tried to take our clothes back they were kicking us. Out of fear we just left our things there.
Then they took us to the van and forced us in by kicking us and hitting us with batons on our shoulders and backs. They took us to the border and got us out of the van. They were grabbing us and pulling us out. They were still hitting and slapping us. They made us stand in a line again at the border and took individual pictures of our faces. 4 or 5 of us had to read a paper but I wasn't one of them. The paper said: “You came illegally, why did you come illegally?” They opened the gate and kicked us out or pushed us out by grabbing us by the head. A Serbian police car arrived. They used to ask us if Hungarians have beaten us but this time they didn't.
We went to Horgos camp. Nobody asked us anything. Nobody asked if we were ok, if we were beaten. After this all our clothes were ripped and we slept outside. From the moment they caught us to the moment they deported us they were continuously beating us. The sun was rising when we entered into Serbia.
I haven't told you any lies I have not exaggerated anything. They hit little kids, they hit little kids so much that they were crying. This is the whole story. We pray that god saves us from this hardship. We've come here and our lives are worse than they were when we were at home. Even dogs have a better life here. We've never thought that we could ever be treated this way and that anyone could ever treat us that badly. We've left our small children at home for the chance of their lives getting better, but all that has happened is that our lives have gotten worse. How can I tell you... Where can we go? We can't go forward we can't go backwards. We're in such a horrible situation. Nobody understands us. Nobody speaks our language.
About one week ago, in January I crossed the Hungarian border. It was very cold that night but it wasn't snowing. We went before the snow. I was in a group of 42-45 people. There were 3 or 4 minors amongst us and 5 to 10 elderly people. It was after midnight when the fence got cut and we got through. We were still in the first jungle when we looked back and saw a police car about one kilometer behind us, right in the spot where the fence has been cut. The police saw that. We carried on walking for about one hour, then we saw a main road in front of us. There was a lot of houses alongside it and people living there put their lights on to see who is passing by.
There was a jungle on the other side of the road. We saw police cars there, with their lights on. We saw them from quite far ahead. Policemen were walking through the jungle with their flashlights and we realised they were looking for us. Meanwhile a helicopter came as well. Somebody said we need to hide so we went to the only place we could do that, a field next to the road. They were looking for us for 20-25 minutes. A lot of them, 30-40 people. The helicopter flew above us and they saw us in its light. It flew around one more time to see if there was anyone else around and flew away.
5 minutes later the police came to us. We were all sitting. I thought that if I'll be in the middle of the group I won't get beaten as badly as people on the outside. I got up and moved to the middle. The policemen came to us and started shouting really loudly. Horrible screams and shouts that scared us. Every one of them had a stick and they went around hitting all the refugees not once, not twice but numerous times. They were kicking us in the same time. We were all sitting at that point and they kept hitting and kicking us for 15-20 minutes. Some of us got hit so bad that they kept crying very very loudly. They've been beaten so badly.
First they were hitting us all in the group, after they started doing it individually. You would think that they wouldn't hit the elderly and the minors but they it them just as much. They didn't even bother to see who was older and who was younger, they just started hitting us right away. There was one man. He wasn't in our group, they caught him separately. They were beating him for 30 minutes. They were asking: “Where is the rest of your group?”, and he didn't know. They grabbed him and smashed his head against the ground breaking his teeth. Blood was coming out of his ears and from his nose. His mouth was cut where the teeth broke. When they dropped us in Serbia he was done, he couldn't move. He just lied down on the ground. We carried him to the Horgos transit zone and they let him stay the night there.
The policemen were humiliating us and laughing at us . They were beating us and joking while doing it. They were saying: “Fuck you! Fuck muslims! Muslims are animals”. They put us all in a line and made us sit down. They were asking each of us where we were from. During this they were still hitting us. It didn't matter if you were in the beginning or in the middle of the line. Whenever they felt like hitting you they would hit you. If one of us was sitting in a different way or if the line wasn't straight they would drag them out of the line they would beat them and push them back saying: “Sit straight!”. In my whole life I've never been that scared. I've never been beaten this way and I've never seen anyone that was beaten this way.
They've started searching through our belongings. They looked in our jackets. Threw our bags on the ground and used their legs to rummage through them, to see what we've got. They kicked everything out and said: “Pack your bags back up again!” They gave us only few seconds to do that, when somebody wasn't doing it fast enough they would hit them again saying: “Faster!” They made us take our clothes off during that time and they were still beating us.
Then they made us sit again and gave us our clothes back. They brought a police van around. There was a small sitting compartment inside and they made us sit in there. They took us to Horgos and got us out of the van. There was a police dog in front of the door and every time somebody would get out the dog would jump on them, barking and scaring them. They made us stand in a line again and one of the policemen held a can of tear gas. Then we saw a police car coming from the Serbian side so he didn't use it. The car stood at the border on the Serbian side.
They gave us a paper and asked which language we speak. The paper we were made to read aloud said: “We crossed the Hungarian border illegally. We now know that we can go legally through a transit zone”, and “if we experienced any violence we can report that” , but there was no number or information how we can do that. They were filming us as we were reading.
Afterwards they deported us. The sun had risen when we entered into Serbia. That's how long they'd spent with us. The Serbian police didn't ask us if we got beaten. In the early days they used to ask us but now they don't anymore. They pointed us in the direction of Horgos. We tried to speak to them but they just told us to go. Nobody asks us. Nobody wants to listen to us.
Testimonies, Analysis, Protest
Here we collect material on the ongoing violence at the Southern border of Hungary. We publish testimonies, analysis and reports about actions against it.
On the testimonies:
Most of the testimonies were collected by activist and volunteer groups or individuals in Serbia after the push-backs. So far, unless otherwise indicated, the testimonies are from the independent volunteer group Fresh Response, who provide support for refugees and migrants in the North of Serbia.
For reasons of anonymity and safety we have removed the personal data as well as the concrete locations from the testimonies
Title picture: Border Horgos-Rözke, credit: Valczer Hajni