The respondent, a 22-year-old man from Pakistan, left the Serbian village of Radojevo on the 23rd of January, moving in the direction of the Romanian border. He described himself as being part of a group of 17 people (including himself), aged approximately between 13 and 32 years old, all from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to the respondent, the group crossed into Romania from Serbia at around 3:00 am (23rdJanuary), but they were almost immediately apprehended by officers referred to as the Romanian authorities about 5 minutes later somewhere near the 59A road (approximate location: 45°46’41.4″N 20°49’02.3″E). Reportedly, five Romanian male officers were present. The respondent described these individuals as being border police due to the appearance of their uniforms. The respondent stated that they wore black ski masks and dark blue uniforms, apparently without any particular sign on their clothes. He could notice a police car (described as a jeep) near the spot where they were apprehended.
The respondent reports that the authorities first ordered the group to lie down on the bellies. At that moment, the respondent reported being threatened because he was looking at the authorities:
“I was watching one of them, so he told me: why are you looking me? Keep your head down.”
Some group members could not understand English, thus they sat down on the ground, even though the authorities had ordered them to lie on their bellies. The respondent recalled that the officers beat them as a punishment until they lied down.
As soon as all group members were laying on the ground, the authorities started kicking them and beating with batons roughly five times each.
“They (the Romanian officers) beat us all over the body. They didn’t care if someone had some problem, if someone was a child, they just didn’t care. (…) Some of us was too much injured by their kicks.”
Reportedly the officers hit them on the head and on the lower back for about 5 minutes, and after this they apparently stopped to search for an English speaker in the group. The respondent described everyone staying silent when the authorities asked who was able to communicate in English. In response to the lack of reply, the officers reportedly started beating the transit group again for approximately 3 minutes. After that the respondent admitted he could speak English, hoping they would stop the punishment.
He was able to communicate comfortably in English, thus he tried to explain the intention of the group to seek asylum. He mentioned some of his own words:
“Why do you beat us like this? I just need shelter and I need stay-paper here in Romania. (…) We want stay here.”
The respondent recalled being answered something in the line of:
“Why are you coming to our country? You are a big problem for us. Shut up. (…) Go back to your country.”
Once it was found out that he was able to speak English, the authorities separated him from the group. According to the respondent four officers were around him. The other one present was talking over the phone closer to the rest of the group, still laying on the ground. The respondent assumed that he was talking to the Serbian authorities on the phone.
According to the respondent, the officers wanted to know from him who was the leader of the group. Reportedly, the respondent tried to explain that no leader was present between them at that time. However, the authorities then assumed the respondent was the leader.
“I was the only one who could speak English (…) so they thought I was leading these people (the group). I told them (that) I’m just a refugee and I want to move from Serbia to Romania.”
Allegedly the officers would not believe him, even though he tried to make clear that he was only trying to help his group, because none could speak English between them. The respondent mentioned the officers having said:
“No, you are wrong, you are lying. (…) You are the leader.”
Next, the authorities reportedly hit him with batons, hands and feet, continuing to ask him who was leading the group. According to the respondent, he was beaten all over his body for what he described as 10 minutes.
“The officers were standing around me and they gave me some punches and kicks (…), they also used their sticks.”
Then, the officer the respondent was talking with took some pictures of him, while he was allegedly telling him:
“If you come back here again, we will break your legs and hands.”
Shortly after, the respondent described falling on the ground unconscious, due to the violence he had been subject to.
“I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t know where I was (…) I thought that my bones were broken, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe.”
At which point the respondent states that one of his friends was allowed by the officers to bring him some water. Thereafter, each group member, including the respondent, was searched and asked for his mobile. Once the mobiles were handed over, the authorities threw them on the ground and proceeded to break them with their batons.
Around 4:30/4:45 AM, two officers, described as Serbian police officers, arrived at the spot with what was described as a Serbian police car. Reportedly, they came over to the Romanian side and they spent an unspecified number of minutes there interacting with the Romanian authorities. The Romanian and Serbian officers were described as “kidding and joking” with each other, while the Serbian authorities were checking the group’s camp cards.
It was around 5:00AM when the Serbian authorities reportedly ordered the group to start walking in the direction of the Serbian village Radojevo, telling them to go back to their camps. The respondent explained that they needed almost 30 minutes to arrive Radojevo, where they took a bus. Reportedly, for the first 15/20 minutes the Serbian police car slowly followed them, while the respondent saw the Romanian officers standing on the spot for some minutes and looking at the group going away.
The group arrived in Belgrade during the morning, on 23rd January.
During the three months preceding the incident described above, the respondent reported having suffered multiple experiences of violent pushbacks from Romania to Serbia, but mostly in Vršac area.