On the 25th February 2020 six men attempted to cross the Serbian border into Romania. The group was composed of a sixteen-year-old boy, and another five men between 28 and 35 years old. They came from Morocco, Sudan and Algeria. They left from a village in Serbia from where they started to walk at 05.00 and after seven hours, they reached the border with Romania. The respondent said that the group arrived there at 12.00 in an area of open fields.
“We saw on the map that we crossed the border, but there were no fences that could help us to recognize it”.
The transit group decided to proceed during the day because at night they alleged there are a lot of drones that monitor the territory near the border, and that increases significantly the chances of being discovered.
The group was walking in the direction of the city of Timisoara (ROM), but they were seen by a local man who stopped them and called the police. The group waited for around three hours, when two Romanian police regular cars arrived. There were five police officers, described as wearing blue uniforms, all men. One of them had his face covered because he was wearing a black balaclava.
The police officers didn’t say anything other than force the transit group members down to the floor in order to search their bodies for personal belongings. Phones, money (around 6/700 EUR all) and bags full of clothes and food were taken and never returned.
“It’s a common thing that police steal money from us, in every place and every day”.
In addition to seizing all personal belongings, the police made a video on their phones asking the the respondent and others to show their phone password.
“They did it to save it and to use it later, we don’t know what they did with our phones”.
Always in the same place, they were all forced to take off their jackets and to turn them over, and after that Romanian police officers started to beat them with batons, leaving on men’s body visible injuries. After the question regarding where they were beaten, he said: “Arms, back, legs, stomach, everywhere”.
“They took our jackets so it will hurt more”
All the people expressed their intention to apply for asylum in Romania, but it was denied. The group was ushered into one car, and the condition inside was very cramped. For this reason, there was not enough space for everyone, and the drive was described as horrible. The officer was driving very fast and in a very reckless way, for more than an hour.
The entire group had not been brought to any police station, but directly back to the Serbian/Romanian border, where they were met by Serbian police officers who proceeded to search the group again for money. (According to the respondent, two of the men who were in this group already tried to cross this border one month before, and when they were pushed back, Romanian police said to them “You give me 100 EUR or you will go 10 days in prison”.)
Once the group was left at the Serbian/Romanian border, they walked for an hour to the nearest village in north eastern Serbia and then returned back with a taxi to Principovac Camp on the western side of the country.