The respondent, a 22-year-old man from Pakistan, left the Serbian village of Radojevo on the 23rd of January, moving in the direction of the Romanian border. He described be part of a group of 17 people (including himself), aged approximately between 13 and 32 years old, all from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to the respondent, the group crossed into Romania from Serbia at around 3:00 am (23rdJanuary), but they were almost immediately apprehended by the Romanian authorities about 5 minutes later somewhere near the 59A road (approximate location: 45°46’41.4″N 20°49’02.3″E). Reportedly five Romanian male officers were present. The respondent described these individuals as being border police due to the appearance of their uniforms. The respondent mentioned them wearing black ski masks and dark blue uniforms, apparently without any particular sign on their clothes. He could notice a police car (jeep) near the spot where they were apprehended.
The authorities first ordered the group to lie down on the bellies. At that moment, the respondent remarked receiving threats because he was looking at the authorities:
“I was watching one of them, so he told me: why are you looking me? Keep your head down.”
Some group members could not understand English, thus they sat down on the ground, even though the authorities had ordered them to lie on their bellies. The respondent recalled that the officers beat them as a punishment until they lied down.
As soon as all group members were laying on the ground, the authorities started kicking them and beating with batons roughly five times each.
“They (the Romanian officers) beat us all over the body. They didn’t care if someone had some problem, if someone was a child, they just didn’t care. (…) Some of us was too much injured by their kicks.”.
Reportedly the officers hit them on the head and on the lower back for about 5 minutes, after this, they apparently stopped to search for some English speaker inside the group. The respondent described everyone staying silent when the authorities asked who was able to communicate in English. In response to the lack of reply, they started beating again for the total approximative duration of 3 minutes. After that the respondent admitted he could speak English, apparently hoping they would have stopped the punishment.
He was able to communicate comfortably in English, thus he tried to explain the intention of the group to seek asylum. He mentioned some of his own words:
“Why do you beat us like this? I just need shelter and I need stay-paper here in Romania. (…) We want stay here.”
The respondent recalled being answered something in the line of:
“Why are you coming to our country? You are a big problem for us. Shut up. (…) Go back to your country.”
Once it was found out that he was able to speak English, the authorities would have led him apart from the group. According to the respondent four officers were around him. The other one present was talking over the phone closer to the rest of the group, still waiting on the ground. The respondent assumed that he was talking to the Serbian authorities on the phone.
Subsequently the officers investigated about the leader of the group. Reportedly, the respondent tried to explain that no leader was present between them at that time. However, the authorities supposed the respondent was the leader.
“I was the only one who could speak English (…) so they thought I was leading these people (the group). I told them (that) I’m just a refugee and I want to move from Serbia to Romania.”
Allegedly the officers would not believe him, even though he tried to make clear that he was only trying to help his group, because none could speak English between them. The respondent mentioned the officers having said:
“No, you are wrong, you are lying. (…) You are the leader.”
Next, the authorities would have hit him with batons, hands and kicks, keeping asking him who was heading the group. According to the respondent, he would have been beat over all the body for what he felt to be 10 minutes.
“The officers were standing around me and they gave me some punches and kicks (…), they also used their sticks.”
Then, the officer the respondent was talking with, would have taken some pictures of him, while he was allegedly telling him:
“If you come back here again, we will break your legs and hands.”
Shortly after, the respondent described falling on the ground unconscious, due to the suffered violence.
“I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t know where I was (…) I thought that my bones were broken, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe.”
At which point one respondent’s friend was allowed by the officers to bring him some water. Thereafter, each group member, including the respondent, was searched and asked for his mobile. Once the mobiles were handed over, they authorities would have thrown them on the ground, breaking them with their batons.
Around 4:30/4:45 am, two Serbian officers, described as normal officers, arrived at the spot with a Serbian normal police car. Reportedly they came on the Romanian side and they spent an unspecified number of minutes there interacting with the Romanian authorities. The Romanian and Serbian officers were described “kidding and joking” each other, while the Serbian authorities were checking the group camp cards.
It was around 5:00 am when the Serbian authorities ordered the group to start walking in the direction of the Serbian village Radojevo, exhorting them to go back to their camps. The respondent explained that they needed almost 30 minutes to arrive Radojevo, where they took a bus. Reportedly, for the first 15/20 minutes the Serbian police car slowly followed them, while the respondent saw the Romanian officers standing on the spot for some minutes and looking at the group going away.
The group arrived in Belgrade during the morning, on 23rd January.
During the three months preceding the accident described above, the respondent highlighted having suffered multiple experiences of violent pushbacks from Romania to Serbia, but mostly in Vršac area.