“He looked like the boss, they were waiting for him”

  • Date and time: February 17, 2021 20:00
  • Location: Near Subotica, Serbia
  • Coordinates: 46.183715038215, 19.690240484113
  • Pushback from: Hungary
  • Pushback to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 2 person(s), age: 22, 40 , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: threatening with guns
  • Police involved: 5-10 Hungarian police in dark blue uniforms -purple hat and flag on arm- (at least some of them had 2 silver pinting lines on arm), 7-8 officers in camouflage, 1 officer in brown uniform -stars on arm- (English speaker).
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: photos taken, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Collective Aid

Original Report

The respondent, a 22 year old man from Afghanistan, reported about a push-back from Hungary to Serbia that occured on February 17th, 2021. 

The respondent reported that he approached the border with Hungary at around 18:00, after walking for three hours from Subotica (Serbia). He was in a group with around 10 other people from Afghanistan – all adult males. He and another Afghani man – who was around 40 years old – climbed the first of the two border fences and were on their way to climb the second one, when a small car, white with blue writing “in Hungarian” – a car commonly seen between the fences according to the respondent – approached them. The rest of the group, still on the Serbian side of the fence, ran away from the border. 

The interviewee reported that there were three officers in the approaching car. Two of them were wearing dark blue uniforms with purple hats with a light on them. The other one was dressed in a green camouflage uniform, with a green hat and a light on it. He had a badge on his arm whihc bore a flag, though the respondent did not remember the colours of the flag.

The respondent explained that the three officers got out of the car and the man in the camouflage uniform pointed a rifle at the respondent and his companion. The officer in camourflage uniform aiming the gun shouted in English at them to kneel down on the ground.

The pair kneeled down, the gun still pointing at them, and one of the officers pointed a large torch into their eyes, forcing them to look at it. One minute later, three of the same small white cars and one big black jeep arrived. Two of the smaller white cars stayed at a difference from the original apprehending officers. But the others, including a large black “army” vehicle, as described by the respondent drew up next to them. There were around 6 – 7 officers in the same camouflage uniforms contained in this vehicle. Meanwhile some more police officers in the same dark blue uniform got out of the other small car white car which had approached the scene. 

The interviewee recalls seeing a symbol of two silver pointing lines on the uniforms of some of the policemen in dark blue clothes, and recalled that he had seen this before at the border in North Macedonia:

“This is something we watched in Macedonia too”

At the spot of apprehension, the two men were allegedly forced to kneel down and stare at the torchlight for one hour. The first officer present in camouflage uniform continued pointing the rifle at them and shouting if they changed their posture or stopped looking into the torchlight. The respondent told the officers he had eye problems and the other man told them about having pain in his knees, but they were not allowed to change positions.

Halfway through this treatment, after about 30 minutes, another officer came. The officer was reportedly wearing a brown uniform with ”six pocket trousers” and stars on the sleave arm of his jacket. This officer reportedly only spoke in English with the other officers present. The respondent described how:

“He looked like the boss, they were waiting for him. He didn’t talk to us, just to the army men”

And refering to the officers that the respondent had heard were operating at the Hungarian border, the respondent said:

“People here say they are German”

The officer who arrived in the brown uniform stayed there only for a couple of minutes. The respondent surmised that the attending Hungarian officers had told the newcomer that they “got two people”. After this conversation, the officer in brown uniform left.

Another 30 minutes elapsed, with the pair forced to kneel and stare into the torchlight. During that time, they asked for food and water and were not given anything. They also asked for asylum and were told they had to claim it at the “transit zone” or Hungarian Embassy in Serbia.

After an hour of kneeling, they were forced to walk for around one hour with one of the cars following them and beeping it’s horn at them if they were too slow. The pair and their police escort arrived at a small gate in the fence with Serbia, where the officers photographed them twice. One of the pictures was of their faces and the other one was of them holding a paper with a text in Hungarian that they did not understand.

The pair were then made to cross through the gate back to Serbia at around 20:00. They did not see any Serbian police on the other side. There was a big “mobile tower” with a big light and a closed factory close by. They had to walk for 3-4 hours until they reached a neighbourhood/small town on the edge of Subotica.

“It wasn’t so far but we didn’t know where to go, it was all dark”

When they found the road, after three hours walking, they saw a white and blue police car that stopped next to them. There were two Serbian police officers inside and they asked the two men for money in euros. 

“They always ask for money in Subotica, they know we come from the Hungary border. They don’t take dinars, just euros”

When the two men told them they only had dinars and asked them where the bus or train station was, they left without taking money or giving information.