“I showed them my papers but they pushed me back”

  • Date and time: December 5, 2020 11:00
  • Location: In the area of Horgos, Serbia
  • Coordinates: 46.1527346, 19.9655305
  • Pushback from: Hungary
  • Pushback to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 5 person(s), age: 17-25 , from: Palestine, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: no violence used
  • Police involved: Hungarian and Serbian police officers
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent, a 17-year-old male unaccompanied minor from Palestine, was pushed back from Hungary to Serbia on 5th December 2020. 

The pushback to Serbia was carried out after the respondent had entered Hungary from Romania. In Romania the respondent had been registered and provided with a temporary identity document as an asylum seeker. The document confirmed the identity of the bearer,  their right to stay in Romania during the asylum procedure, and their place of residence. It was issued to the respondent on the 25th September 2020 in the Accomodation Center for Asylum Seekers in Galați, Romania.

In November 2020, the respondent travelled from Galați in the east of Romania to Budapest, Hungary. In Budapest, he was apprehended by the Hungarian police and brought to a police station. The respondent could not recall its name or exact location. 

Inside the police station, the respondent expressed an intention to apply for asylum. His fingerprints were taken by the officers inside, he was interviewed by the police and his phone was searched at the officers’ request. A translator was present during this procedure.

Eventually, the Hungarian police ascertained that the respondent had been previously registered as an asylum seeker in Romania. The respondent reported that he felt the process was fair and transparent . He was informed that it was impossible to obtain asylum status in Hungary after being registered in Romania. Afterwards, he was placed in quarantine for ten days, then transferred to a camp in Budapest for another ten days and finally deported to Romania. 

Shortly after this incident, on approximately the 25th November 2020, the respondent entered Hungary again in a truck. Ten days later, on the morning of the 5th December 2020, the respondent was approached by a single plain clothed police officer in the city of Pécs, in South Western Hungary. The officer identified himself by displaying his police badge and asked for the respondent’s papers. When the respondent showed his documentation from Romania, the officer  screwed up the paper into a ball before returning it. 

The officer then made a phone call and, after a short wait, a van driven by several uniformed Hungarian police officers arrived. As the respondent described, the van was “big, approximately the size of an ambulance car, with no windows in the back, but seats.” 

“I showed them my papers but they pushed me back.”

The respondent was loaded into the van by the police officers. Four other people were already inside the van: two Moroccan men, one Tunisian and another Algerian. The respondent estimated that they were all “not much more than twenty years old.”

Without being informed by the officers as to the reasons for their arrest or what was to follow, the group was driven to the Serbian border. No translator was present at any moment and they were not taken to a police station.

“They didn’t explain anything to me.”

According to the respondent, the drive lasted around thirty minutes. However, he does not know precisely where on the Serbian border they were taken to. The police officers did not provide any information.

“They knew already I came from Romania, but they put me back to Serbia.”

After they arrived at the border, the officers unloaded the group from the van and ordered them to walk to a barbed wire fence that marked the border. 

The respondent reported that the officers did not use any violence. This, however, is atypical for the Hungarian-Serbian border. In recent testimones collated by the BVMN, pushbacks in the region involved extreme violence. Police officers reportedly beat people-on-the-move, forced them to undress and stole their personal belongings. 

As before, the officers did not speak to the group. They only accompanied them to a gate in the fence. The respondent documented that at the gate there were speakers installed. Through the speakers, a pre-recorded message was played in Arabic and “Pakistani and Afghani language.” It told the group “not to come.” 

“When we came closer to the speakers, they [the speakers] said “don’t come, go back!”

The group was sent through the gate by the officers. This happened at 11:00 on 5th December 2020, the respondent estimated. 

On the other side of the fence, the group was soon approached by a unit of Serbian police officers. The respondent did not clarify the number of the officers or their appearance. He described that the Serbian police officers did not talk to the group. They did not use any violence, but silently followed them. They walked behind the group for around five kilometers until they reached a village. The respondent could not recall the name of this settlement. From here, the respondent continued alone. He took a bus to Belgrade and then travelled, via Kosovo and Albania, to Thessaloniki, Greece.