“We didn't have a chance”

  • Date and time: August 19, 2019 22:00
  • Location: near Röszke border crossing, Hungary
  • Coordinates: 46.162525507831475, 19.908754768845142
  • Push-back from: Hungary
  • Push-back to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 16 person(s), age: 16-25 , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, destruction of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 20-25 Hungarian police officers, multiple police sedans, one police helicopter
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, photos taken, no translator present, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring, Escuela Con Alma

Original Report

A transit group of 16 Afghani adult men and minors left Subotica (Serbia) on the evening of August 16th 2019 with the goal of reaching Austria by crossing through Hungary. Upon crossing the border between Serbia and Hungary, the group continued walking on the Hungarian side of the border for approximately two and a half hours. In the early hours of August 17th, the transit group reached a spot in some woodland (referred to by the respondent as “jungle”) where they had been told they were “supposed to wait” for onward transit.

The transit group waited at the spot for almost three days. They slept on the forest floor without blankets. On August 18th, their food and water resources were used up, and they were still waiting. On August 19th, the group was discovered by Hungarian police. In the words of the respondent:

“We didn’t have a chance.”

The Hungarian police arrived around noon in several white police sedans. The officers were wearing dark-blue uniforms. In total, 20-25 Hungarian police officers were present and with them several dogs. The respondent claimed that a helicopter was used by the police to search for the transit group.

After being discovered by the police, the people-in-transit were made to sit in a  line by the officers. Those who did not follow the Hungarian police’s orders quickly were beaten with black batons in their torsos and legs. The Afghan men and minors were quickly searched by the police officers at this point, but no personal property was confiscated.

The Afghan men and minors were made to sit in this line for six hours during the hottest time of the day. All the while, the Hungarian police officers were standing in the shade a little distance away, guarding the transit group. The people-in-transit had used up all the food and water the previous day, and the Hungarian police did not provide them with any additional resources.

At approximately 18:00, the men were once again searched, this time more thoroughly. Phones and other electronic devices as well as money and documents were confiscated. Before the Hungarian police returned the items to the people-in-transit, they broke the men’s phones. After the pat down, the police took pictures of the transit group with a phone camera.

The Hungarian police then forced the Afghan men and minors into a white police van. All 16 of them had to cram into two rows with three seats each. The drive only lasted for 15-20 minutes but because the windows were closed, it got very hot inside and there was not sufficient air. The Hungarian police officers were driving recklessly, swerving left and right, accelerating and decelerating rapidly.

At the end of the ride, the car came to a stop at the police station of the Röszke (Hungary) border crossing. There, the transit group was put into a tiny cell of approximately ten square meters. The cell had yellow walls and no window. Fresh air was provided by a small ventilator in the corner. The transit group was still not provided with any food or drink, but they did have access to the toilet. They were soon joined by three more men of Arab origin who had presumably been arrested at the border station itself. The people-in-transit had to wait for approximately two and a half hours in this cell. During this time they were called out individually and photographed. No documents or other information was provided to the men.

Finally, at approximately 21:00, the Afghan men and minors were once again loaded into a van – identical to the one that had brought them to the police station – while the three Arab men remained in the cell. Hungarian police officers drove the transit group for 15 minutes until the van stopped on the Hungarian side of the border fence. There was dense forest on both sides of the border. Additional Hungarian border officials were present who photographed the men one last time and opened a door in the fence and told the transit group to cross into Serbia.

The men proceeded to walk back to Subotica (Serbia), where they had started three days earlier. After five hours of walking, they reached Subotica at 03:00, on August 20th.