“A 13-year old boy couldn’t stop crying because of the gas”

  • Date and time: January 13, 2017 19:00
  • Location: Border near Subotica
  • Coordinates: 46.17664001458464, 19.97868455015123
  • Demographics: Group of 12 people including 4 minors
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: People were forced to sit in a puddle of water, hit with batons and pepper sprayed
  • Police involved: 12-14 police officers
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Unknown
  • Reported by: Fresh Response

Original Report

Testimony 1:

On Friday the 13th of January, I crossed the Hungarian border near the Horgoš crossing. There were 55 of us in the group at the beginning and we all crossed over onto the Hungarian side. Then we separated and 12 of us, including myself, got caught by the Hungarian police about two kilometers from the border fence. Four policemen approached us in a marked police car; they had two dogs with them.

First thing they did was to spray our eyes with gas so we couldn’t see clearly. I tried so hard to open my eyes and remember their faces or numbers on their uniforms but the gas made it impossible. I can only say that they were young men, age 20–22 and that their uniforms were blue. They asked about our nationality and started shouting: No Hungary for you!, calling us terrorists, Taliban, etc.

Meanwhile, two other police cars came with eight men and four dogs. I remember one of them was an older, fat man. They had us all sit in a puddle, knee deep. One of us, a 13-year old boy couldn’t stop crying because of the gas so they moved him from the front to the back of the line, so he was sitting next to me. He kept crying and they were laughing at him and hitting him with police batons saying: Shut up! Shut up! He was the youngest of us but there were three other minors in the group.

The policemen ordered us to put our hands up and open our jackets so they could hit us on ribs and stomachs. Some of them were using plastic batons while the rest was armed with metal ones. Afterwards they searched us, one man at the time, while the rest of us remained sitting in water. They had each of us stand up so they could remove our warm clothing, jackets, gloves, hats, trousers (if someone was wearing more than one pair). They destroyed the dinars they found on us and put our euros in their pockets. They smashed our phones on the ground.

During the search we had to hold our hands up in the air in the strong, cold wind. After the search was done they still had us sitting in the puddle, but this time ordered us to put our hands on the next person’s shoulders and started hitting us on our ribs with police batons.

One of the policeman stood atop my friend’s shoulders and started laughing and jumping on him. Then they told us to stand up but keep the line and released the dogs on us from the right side.

When some of us tried to move to run away from the dogs they were beaten again and forced back to the “line”. They kept laughing and shouting: keep the line, keep the line!

Then they called the dogs off but told us to remain in line. They went behind us so we couldn’t see them and started tapping us on the shoulders. Anytime one of us turned around to look at them, the policeman would say: Hello! and spray gas in our eyes again. They didn’t let us clean our faces, saying that they should stay that way. Afterwards they took us to the police van, hitting our calves with batons as we were walking. They didn’t let us enter the part of the van meant for transporting people, instead they crammed us in the luggage space, hitting and pushing us in order to do so, as there was not enough space for twelve people there.

They took our backpacks out, threw away all the water and food they found. Hard fruits such as apples and oranges were thrown in our faces. Then we were transported to the gate. There was not enough space to sit so we had to stand all the way. Another Hungarian policemen came with keys to open the gate but then the older military man (different uniform) approached us telling the rest to wait. He took out his can of gas and sprayed our faces again. Then the policemen took pictures of us ordering us to open our eyes. As we couldn’t do so because of the gas, they started hitting us again, forcing us to look into the camera. Then they brought us to the fence, and said: This is your language, read!

Anytime one of us turned around to look at them, the policeman would say: Hello! and spray gas in our eyes again. They didn’t let us clean our faces, saying that they should stay that way.

There was a sign on the border fence which we were forced to read aloud, saying that we didn’t experience any physical or verbal abuse from Hungarian authorities. They recorded each of us reading. At the time we were saying that we hadn’t experienced any abuse the dogs were released on us again, just circling around our legs, below the point where the camera could see them. Then they let us through the fence and ordered us to go back to Serbia. There was no Serbian police on the other side.

The whole thing lasted around two hours, as we got caught at 7pm and reached the gas station in Horgoš at 9:30pm.


Testimony 2:

I crossed the Hungarian border with forty other people. I don’t remember the name of the place; I don’t remember the date. Behind the border fence we started walking very fast for about five minutes. Then eleven others and I sat down, while the remaining twenty-eight walked ahead. Between twelve and fourteen police officers arrived; some in a car, some by walking. They had torches and were looking for us. We stood up and they came to us, started kicking us and hitting us on the ribs with police batons. I don’t know what the batons were made of but they were black, heavy and very hard.

Then the police made us walk away from the dry ground we were sitting on before. They forced us to sit in a big puddle of water, about two inches deep. They told us to put our hands up in the air and came running to us, hitting us on our heads with batons. They made us take off our hats and gloves. When my hands got cold I tried to put them in my pockets but they didn’t let me. They were shouting: Take your hands out! and made me unzip my jacket. They emptied our pockets and destroyed our phones by smashing them on the ground with their heels.

Then the police started hitting us with batons again. They hit me twice in the back, twice in the head and on my fingers. There were other policemen I didn’t get to see.

We were still sitting down in the water when they came behind each of us saying: Hello my friend. When we turned to look at them, we were sprayed in the eyes.

Then one of them, a fat man with a beard and moustache, let the dogs loose on us. He was always with a dog between his legs. The dogs were climbing and clawing on us.

When they sprayed me my head went down. Every time I tried to look at them they would hit me in the head. They made us look down like this [lowers his head]. They said we must stay like this. They said: Don’t look up! They were hitting us very hard. They made us sit in water for about one and a half hours.

Afterwards they put us in the police van — a regular marked one with sirens on top. There was a small area separated with a net and they made us get in there. On the other side of the net they had dogs. They use batons to force us in as there was not enough space for all. One of us stood outside, he couldn’t get in on his own but they forced him inside by pushing and hitting. Then they closed the door and drove us to the border gate.

When we got out they made us stand in a line again. A new man arrived and started spraying us, he was wearing a different type of uniform, with something black and white on it. It was like an army uniform. The rest of them had dark blue uniforms. This spray was different than the first one. It made my eyes hurt. The first one they had used made me cough and want to vomit. I was coughing a lot. I was in the front of the line when they started spraying us.

They asked why we tried to cross the border. They made a video of me. I was told to read aloud a statement that was on a hook on the border gate while they were filming me. After I finished reading, one of the policemen pushed me to the other side. When we all had read the statement they opened the gate and said: Go! We walked back and arrived at the gas station around 21:30.