“Pouring the water… on our heads and clothes”

Photo: Fresh Response

On January 5th, 2017 at night I made an attempt to cross the Hungarian border near the Horgoš crossing. Forty-eight people left with me, but nine of them got scared just before the border fence and decided to go back. The rest of us succeeded and managed to get across the border onto the Hungarian side.

We were walking through the forest about fifteen kilometers north of the border when we heard cars coming and decided to hide. Four marked police cars arrived. There were around fifteen policemen with trained dogs, heat-sensors and handguns. They saw us in the light, rounded us up, and released dogs on us.

Then, without asking any questions, the police officers started kicking and beating us. Afterwards they searched each of us, checking pockets and backpacks, destroying money and smartphones. Money was shred up in front of our faces, smartphones smashed on the ground. Policemen took out batteries and SIM cards from each phone and destroyed them separately.

Then they collected all the warm clothing we had: jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, shoes and socks, leaving us only in light jumpers and trousers. Every person who wore more than one pair of trousers was told to take them off.

Meanwhile, one more police car came. Newly arrived officers joined the rest. They hit one of my friends with a stick, severely cutting his head. Afterwards they ordered all of us to sit in a line, with our legs spread, hands on our knees and bowed heads, and started pouring the water they had found in the bags on our heads and clothes.

After that they ordered one man to stand up with his hands behind his back. One of the police officers grabbed him by his collar, threw him on the ground and put a gun against his head. When he started crying and begging for mercy, the officer took his gun away while the other policeman put his leg on the man’s neck and held him down so others could kick him.

Then everyone had the dogs released on them again. When we were trying to back off to escape the dogs, police officers were on the other side of us, kicking us back towards the dogs. This was repeated several times. In the meantime, some policemen were drinking tea in the car observing and laughing at us.

When he started crying and begging for mercy, the officer took his gun away while the other policeman put his leg on the man’s neck and held him down so others could kick him.

When the “game” was over, they put us in police cars and drove back to the Serbian border. They set the air-conditioning to maximum in order to lower the temperature. We were brought back to the border where we were forced to read aloud a statement showed to us on a piece of paper, written in Urdu (there were also versions in Pashto and Farsi), saying that we crossed the border illegally and that we didn’t experience any verbal or physical violence from the Hungarian side. Those who didn’t read loud enough were yelled at and threatened. While reading the statements, we were recorded by the officers.

Afterwards, at around eight in the morning, we were passed over to the Serbian side. The Serbians received us and ordered us to go towards Horgoš, but as we knew there’s no shelter in Horgoš except for the unofficial camp in the transit zone, we decided to walk more than twenty kilometers to get back to Subotica.

Only some of us got their wet shoes or socks back so we took off some of the remaining clothes we had and wrapped them around our feet. The temperature was down to -7 degrees at the time and it was snowing.