“They were standing around the pool and laughing at us and taking pictures”

  • Date and time: September 6, 2019 20:00
  • Location: near Röszke border crossing, Hungary
  • Coordinates: 46.16569080971125, 19.92076693672857
  • Push-back from: Hungary
  • Push-back to: Serbia
  • Demographics: 8 person(s), age: 16-19 , from: Afghanistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, water immersion, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, forced into small dog cage in police van
  • Police involved: 12 Hungarian police officers, possibly 1 German Frontex officer, 1 Hungarian police van
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: photos taken, 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

At 09:00 on 6th September 2019, a transit group of eight Afghan teenagers and men – approximately half of whom were minors – climbed into a container on a train in Subotica (Serbia). The train did not leave until approximately 16:00, and the sun was shining the entire day, therefore making it uncomfortably hot and stuffy inside the container.

Finally, the train left Subotica and crossed into Hungary where it stopped at Kelebia train station (Hungary). Hungarian police officers in Kelebia appeared to be aware of the transit’s group presence inside the container because they quickly approached the container and opened its door.

There were approximately 12 Hungarian police officers present, wearing dark-blue uniforms, as well as one officer, described by the respondent as “the German” . According to the respondent, this officer had a German and an EU flag attached to his sleeve. When shown a picture of a German Frontex officer, the respondent said the officer he referred to had a uniform which matched the picture.

The people-in-transit were pulled out of the container individually. The Hungarian police offices frisked them and broke their telephones on the spot. One member of the transit group exclaimed:

“Write to them that they just should not take our phones.”

After the frisk search, the people-in-transit state they were beaten by the suspected Frontex officer (“the German” ) and then returned to the container. The respondent said that the group had to wait for another two hours inside the container, but it was hard for him to estimate the time because the group’s phones had been destroyed. He described that as time went on, the air inside the container became “too warm” to breath.

Finally, the entire transit group was pulled out of the container. The Afghan men were told to stand spreadeagled with their faces towards the train. The Hungarian police searched them a second time, and the German officer started beating the people-in-transit again. He was using only his fists, hitting the people-in-transit in their chests, shoulders, and faces. One person-in-transit’s nose was broken; the respondent described how:

“a lot of  blood come from his nose.”

The beating lasted for approximately ten minutes. Then the transit group had to form a line, cross their arms behind their heads, and march to a nearby police station. The Hungarian police officers led the group into the police station’s yard, where an inflatable swimming pool was set up.

The people-in-transit were told to get into the swimming pool with their clothes on. It was around one meter deep, and the water was described by the respondent as “too cold”. The sun was going down at this point and the severe chill of the water shocked the group, particularly because they had been kept up until that point in a hot container with little ventilation. The temperature change was very painful. Further, while the men were in the water, Hungarian police officers stood around the pool and recorded the transit group with small digital cameras and their cell phones.

“They were standing around the pool and laughing at us and taking pictures.”

After what felt like 45 minutes, the people-in-transit were told to get out of the pool. No towels or new clothes were provided, and the men and minors recall how they could not complain about their treatment because:

“talking is not allowed.”

With their trousers still wet, the people-in-transit had to wait in the yard for an additional ten minutes until a white van pulled into the police station. The Hungarian police officers made the men enter the van’s rear, where they had to sit in “the place of the dogs”: a small meshed wire compartment, normally used to transport police dogs.

The van was driven by the same Hungarian police officers and the German officer who had detected, beaten and detained the transit group. The driver accelerated and decelerated rapidly, causing the people-in-transit to tumble over each other in their crammed compartment.

After a 30 minute drive, the van stopped at a gate in the Hungarian border fence near the Röszke (Hungary) border crossing at approximately 20:00. At the gate, a few additional Hungarian police officers were present as well as another Hungarian police vehicle (Sedan). The new Hungarian police officers opened the gate and the transit group was told to cross back into Serbia. The group observed the fact that they were being filmed by “the German” as they were forced back into Serbia.

From the fence, the transit group walked through woodland, described by them as “the jungle”, for some time until they reached a small village with a road that led them to Horgoš (Serbia). From the village of Horgoš, the transit group took a bus back to Subotica (Serbia), where they arrived a little after 21:00 in the evening.