On the 4th of January, a group of 14 people from Afghanistan and Pakistan, aged between 12 and 24 years old, left Belgrade around 5:00 p.m. moving towards Vršac, a Serbian city next to Romanian border. The respondent, a 24 years old man from Pakistan, described arriving in Vršac around 7:00 pm. From there they started approaching the Romanian border with the intention to cross it.
They were still in Serbia when the respondent reports that an uncertain number of Serbian officers stopped them and forced the group to turn back. The respondent was not able to count the number of the officers because they did not get out of the car. Once again in Vršac the group looked for a place where they could spend the night of the 4th January. The respondent reported that they then encountered some groups of people on the move that had just been pushed back from Romania, also trying to recover and shelter themselves from the rain somewhere near Vršac. However, reportedly, two Serbian police officers came up near the spot where the groups had just found shelter and asked them for a bribe to stay there. They were described to say something in the line of “If you want stay here, you have to pay”; thus the persons of the group gave all the money they had to the officers, apparently because they didn’t have any other choice due to the late hour and the rain.
In the morning (January 5th), the respondent described the group of 14 people moving closer to the Romanian border. After spending the day there, they headed towards the border until they crossed it around 18:00. After 2 hours walking, the respondent stated that they were found and apprehended by twelve Romanian police around 8.30/9:00 pm. At that moment, the people on the move were near the village Secășeni, close to the 586A road (45°11’48.3″N 21°42’14.9″E).
The respondent described the officers having covered their faces with ski masks, except the eyes. He noticed “Policia de frontira” written on their raincoats. Moreover the respondent remembered seeing several stars (either 2 or 3) as unique mark of one officer’s uniform, likely indicating the officer as an inspector. According to the respondent, the uniforms were of different colours: more specifically he mentioned dark blue and black uniforms. One officers was described as wearing a silver uniform.
Reportedly, some of the officers could speak English and they asked questions to each group member about their origin and the reason of their attempt to cross the border. No translator was present, thus the authorities reportedly used Google Translate to communicate in Pashto. Nevertheless, the respondent recalled that the intention of the group to stay in Romania was understood.
“We told them that we wanted stay in Romania (…) but they told us that we should go Germany, Italy, France, but not Romania”
According to the respondent, first the police officers asked for their mobiles and they broke them. Then they started walking with the apprehended group for about an hour. Next, the officers forced them to sit in the mud and they started to beat each member of the group with their batons for the estimated duration of 5-6 minutes. After that, the group followed the officers until arriving in a spot where a white van described as without marks or signs was parked and they were forced to enter inside it. The van drove for what the respondent said were 10 minutes when they arrived in a road near to the Serbian border. They were forced to go out, thereafter the officers searched each group member and reportedly ordered them to take off their shoes and jackets. They were burnt by two officers, together with their bags, still full. They also threw in the fire the money that the people on the move brought with them.
After that the group started again walking in the rain along a muddy path, obliged to follow the authorities. Half an hour later the officers stopped in a place near the path, whose location is not clear to the respondent (approximate location, 45°09’07.8″N 21°32’40.6″E) . There, the respondent states that the officers forced the group members to lay down on their bellies. Reportedly twelve officers were present, only one of whom was a woman: three or four of them started jumping on the backs of each one of them for an unspecified amount of minutes.
According to the respondent the officers used their batons to hit on the head who complained and they further threatened them.
“If you make noise, we will punish you more”
Afterwards, the authorities reportedly separated the apprehended in 3 groups of 4/5 member each and compelled the first group to do push-ups. Then when the first group finished with the push-ups, they asked them to sit and stand on one leg.
“We were doing all this in the mud and it was very cold, we were not wearing any jacket and shoes. Our face and clothes were full of mud. When the first group finished to do push-ups, then they asked the second group to do the same and so with the third.”
The respondent described this going on since the moment of the arrival in the spot around 10.00 pm until 2.00 am, with different groups suffering the same treatment in rotation.
In a moment in this time frame (the respondent could not remember when precisely) one police car arrived. What was described as two Romanian police went out of the car, reportedly a silver jeep with the inscription “Policia de frontira”. The group’s members, that were laying down on their bellies at that moment, were ordered to turn on the back. At that point the two Romanian officers reportedly started jumping on the chest of each member.
“A little guy started shouting, so two police officers started jumping on his legs. We all felt pain, but we couldn’t shout, if we shouted, if we cried, they started torturing us more.”
Afterwards when they demanded water, the respondent states that the authorities refused to give them and told them something along the lines of:
“There is no water here to drink, you have to drink the water on the ground”
The respondent described the officers taking some food from their car and offering them some meat, supposedly chicken. However, according to the respondent, they later found out it was be pork.
“They (the Romanian officers) forced five or six guys to eat pork. They were also making jokes of our religion.”
Around 2:00 am the respondent describes how the groups were brought together and each member was forced to lay down on the belly for the approximate duration of 10 minutes. Then, a car showed up from beyond the border they were close to. The alleged Romanian officers ordered the group to leave and to go towards the indicated Serbian police car, telling them:
“You have to go there and don’t come back anymore to Romania”
While the Romanian police stood by on the Romanian side of the border, the group walked alone to reach the Serbian police car, but reportedly 5/6 of the group-members could not walk properly and they needed the help of the others members of the group. Once they arrived to the Serbian officers 10 minutes later, they let them go. According to the respondent, they were somewhere near the Serbian village Markovac and they needed to walk an hour more until they could find a bus stop. They reportedly took the bus at 7:00 and they finally arrived in Belgrade around 11 am on January 6th.
“When we came back we couldn’t even sleep because of the pain”