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

Photo: Laszlo Toroczkai

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.