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Guarded by dogs

Date & Time 2019-12-08
Location near Tompa border crossing, Hungary
Reported by Escuela Con Alma
Coordinates 46.15112546, 19.51754552
Pushback from Hungary
Pushback to Serbia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 15 - 25
Group size 11
Countries of origin Afghanistan
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 15
Violence used no violence used
Police involved 15 Hungarian police officers, 1 police van, 1 police car

Shortly after midnight on August 12th 2019, a transit group of 11 Afghan men attempted to cross from Serbia into Hungary, hiding on a freight train. Between the border and Kelebia (Hungary) train station, the respondent observed “unusually” high levels of police present. He described Hungarian police officers being present on either side of the railway track in regular intervals, presumably to make sure that people-in-transit would not attempt to leave the train before they could be detected at the Kelebia (Hungary) station. Among the Hungarian police officers in dark blue uniforms were also security personnel in bright yellow vests.

Three out of the 11 members of the transit group managed to avoid detection by climbing off the train prior to entering the Kelebia (Hunagary) station. However, they were returned to Serbia later on the same day. At the station, the train drove through what the respondent described as a “scanner” – a place with bright lights and many cameras. The remainder of the transit group, including the respondent, was detected by Hungarian police officers in the scanner.

The Hungarian police officers used dogs to detect the transit group, by leading them onto the train, where the dogs helped to direct the Hungarian police officers to the transit group. While the dogs did not bite the men, they were visibly aggressive and left the men fearful.

Upon discovery, the men were told by the Hungarian police officers to disembark from the train. Members of the transit group had to sit down in a crouched position, with their backs bowed, such that their heads were in between their knees, and their arms crossed above their heads. They had to remain in this position for approximately one hour, which was not only physically uncomfortable, but also made it difficult for them to register their surroundings.

The respondent described how the Hungarian police officers – around 15 were present – initially stood some distance away from the transit group, using their dogs to guard the Afghan men.

“When they left the dogs, the officers were laughing […]. They wanted to make us afraid so we don’t come again.”

Apart from taking pictures of the people-in-transit with a camcorder, there was little interaction between the transit group and the police during this time. The respondent believes that the pictures were compared to pictures taken of people-in-transit in the past days to discover and “punish” individuals who had attempted multiple border crossing. The Hungarian police officers did not search the transit group and used no physical violence. The respondent described observing the “commander” of the Hungarian police officers telling his subordinates to “finish quickly”.

After sitting in the crouched position described above at the train station for approximately one hour, the transit group was told to get up and walk to a nearby police station, around 5 minutes away. The people-in-transit were ordered to walk in single file with their hands crossed above their heads, such that they could see only what lay directly in front of them.

The transit group was told to sit down in a yard next to the police station in the same crouched position as earlier. They were guarded by four or five Hungarian police officers, who prevented them from speaking with each other with the threat of physical violence and did not allow them access to toilet facilities. No food or water were provided at any point.

After approximately 30 minutes, a white police van arrived and the men were told to get inside of it. Two Hungarian police officers drove the van and another one was placed in the rear with the people-in-transit. The respondent described that there were only three car seats in the back of the van on which all eight of the people-in-transit had to squeeze together.

The drive lasted for approximately ten minutes. As they arrived at the border fence, some kilometers east of the Tompa (Hungary) border crossing, another police car was present, which the respondent termed “for security”. The Hungarian police officers took another video of the transit before opening a door in the fence.

The transit group crossed back into Serbia at approximately 02:00. in the morning, beginning their way back to Subotica (Serbia) which took them three hours. They did not encounter any Serbian police officers on the way.