“You are not our guests”

  • Date and time: July 30, 2019 00:00
  • Location: near Tompa border crossing, Hungary
  • Coordinates: 46.10507596640581, 19.482774928605636
  • Push-back from: Hungary
  • Push-back to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 30 person(s), age: 4-40 years, respondent: 25 , from: Afghanistan, Iran
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground
  • Police involved: minimum of 10 Hungarian police officers, 3-4 Hungarian police vans and escort cars
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, 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

In the early hours of July 30th, a transit group of approximately 30 Afghanis and Iranians climbed onto a freight train in Serbia close to the Hungarian border. The group included families with children as young as four years old.

Between 03:00 and 04:00. the transit group was discovered by Hungarian police in the train station of the Hungarian the border town Kelebia. Initially four or five Hungarian police officers were present, but as the Hungarian officers discovered more and more people from the transit group, the officers were joined by two to three female police officers and 15-20 minutes later what was described by the respondent as a “Commando Police Unit” arrived on the scene.

The group was told to line up “like soldiers,” while being guarded by the Hungarian police officers. The members of the transit group were asked to present identification papers, which they could not. They were frisked and their bags were searched. Cell phones, as well as other communication equipment were collected and destroyed in front of the group by the Hungarian officers. The respondent was one of the few who managed to hide his phone from the Hungarian police. During the entire procedure, single men had to remain standing, whereas women and children were allowed to sit down.

After the search was finished, its duration being approximately 40 minutes, the Hungarian officers made the transit group walk to the nearby railway police station where they had to sit down in a “yard.” Twenty minutes after reaching this yard, the transit group was counted and divided by families and single men as well as by country of origin.

The respondent describes that single men were taken into the police station and beaten by the police. He was not himself subjected to this treatment because he was accompanied by his wife. However, he reported hearing the screams of the men. Additionally, some of the men subjected to this violence later told the respondent that Hungarian police officers forced the men to lie on the ground and kicked them with their shoes in the neck and legs.

The respondent said that the transit group was held in the police station’s yard for approximately four hours. They were guarded by seven or eight Hungarian officers, some of whom the respondent described as “army” because they wore camouflage uniforms. The Hungarian officers talked to the transit group mostly in Hungarian, which none of the people in transit were able to understand. The respondent said he had to calm his anger in face of the Hungarian police’ conduct:

“Accidentally, a child let a salty stick fall on the ground. And an officer said to the child – the child that was four years old – “get that thing from the ground.” He was very aggressive in telling this. I asked him: “Why do you talk like this to a child?” and he answered: “This is a clean place. You are not our guests.””

No food or water was provided during the period of detention in the yard and members of the transit group were escorted to the toilet “like prisoners.” They were discouraged to speak with one another and smoking was forbidden.

“You cannot move, you cannot do any, you have to be silent!”

At around 07:00, new Hungarian police officers arrived in three or four vans, each with the capacity to seat seven or eight people. The respondent together with 11 or 12 members of the “family group” were crowded into one of the vans. The respondent said the drive in the van lasted for approximately 35 minutes and their vehicle was escorted by a Hungarian police SUV at all times. At the end of the drive, the van stopped in a corn field close to the Hungarian side of the border fence. The Hungarian police officers who had driven the van and the escort car opened a gate in the fence, and made the members of the transit group cross onto the road in the middle of two border fences. The respondent reported walking for several minutes on this “road in the middle” until the group reached a door on the Serbian side of the fence. The Hungarian police officers opened this door and told the transit group to walk in the direction of Subotica (Serbia). No Serbian police officer was present as the transit group crossed back into Serbian territory.

On the Serbian side, the respondent switched on his cell phone, which he had managed to hide from the Hungarian police during the night. He found that they were located several kilometers to the West of the Subotica (Serbia) – Tompa (Hungary) road. As it was around 08:00, the morning sun made conditions uncomfortably hot, and the transit group, which included a four year old child and a pregnant woman, had no water and food. In order to reach the road and the Serbian town of Kelebija, they had to walk through corn fields for what the respondent said felt like three hours. In Kelebija (Serbia), they asked a coffee shop owner to call a taxi for them, but were denied their request. Finally, a fuel station manager was willing to call a taxi which brought the transit group back to Subotica (Serbia).