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Police violence against migrants and refugees at Hungarian-Serbian border
22.3.17
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A video by the Serbian volunteer group Fresh Response has collected the testimonies of numerous people who have suffered violence and mistreatment at the hands of Hungarian police whilst trying to cross into the country from Serbia. The film includes numerous accounts of beatings with batons, the use of dogs and pepper spray, and the confiscation of shoes and clothes in freezing conditions. The group argues that many of the testimonies describe "acts that can be only seen as torture," and that "the enormous scale and clear pattern of violence leave no doubt: these are not just rare and isolated acts of brutality."

Fresh Response describes itself as "an independent volunteer organisation based in Subotica, Serbia that distributes fresh ingredients for refugees and migrants to cook as well as clothes and other aid."

The video is available on the Facebook page of Fresh Response (link), which includes the following text (emphasis added):

"This winter, as temperatures dropped to 20 below zero, the level of violence at Hungary's border with Serbia increased sharply, with many describing acts that can be only seen as torture. People of all ages, some as young as 13, were beaten, stripped naked and ordered to lie face-down in the mud, snow or water for as long as an hour. Their clothing was taken or destroyed. Water poured down their necks. Eyes pepper sprayed. Batons struck against genitals. Forced selfies with laughing officers. All this performed by people in “dark blue uniforms” – official Hungarian border police.

Over the past two years, the Hungarian government has been running a “xenophobic scapegoating campaign" against migration, according to the Helsinki Committee. A 175 kilometer long fence has been setup along the Serbian-Hungarian border, while parallel efforts have been made to prevent the possibility of getting asylum through legal paths.

Meanwhile in Serbia, the number of refugees significantly exceeds the country's accommodation capacity and is still growing. During one of the harshest winters in years, up to 2000 people have had no alternative but to sleep rough outdoors – on the streets of Belgrade or in the forests of the north. Without a safe place to stay in Serbia and no legal way to travel backwards, they've been stuck in limbo.

For most of them, attempting irregular crossings has become the only option. Nearly all of those who tried encountered systematic brutality and humiliation regardless of their gender, age or nationality.

Numerous cases of beatings, dog bites and other abuses at the hands of Hungarian border police have been reported by human rights organisations and activists during the past year. Just in the first two months of 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) treated over a hundred people in Belgrade alone, injured by the Hungarian border patrols.

Although the Hungarian authorities deny all the accusations, the enormous scale and clear pattern of violence leave no doubt: these are not just rare and isolated acts of brutality.

The stories in this video were collected during January and February 2017. During these 2 months we've interviewed more than 20 victims of abuse following human rights reporting guidelines. Informally, we've talked with many more."

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