Beating of refugees continues at Hungarian border, says NGO

August 23, 2016

Horgos, 2016. július 26. Éhségsztrájkot folytató migránsok a szerb-magyar határ közelében Horgosnál 2016. július 26-án. Két nappal korábban 130 migráns érkezett gyalog Belgrádból Horgosra, akik közül július 25-én mindössze negyvenen folytattak éhségsztrájkot a tranzitzóna közelében, hogy Magyarország megnyissa a határt elõttük. MTI Fotó: Balogh Zoltán
Refugees stranded near the Hungarian-Serbian border, waiting to enter the country. Photo: MTI /Balogh Zoltán

More than a month has passed since Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its report on the cruel and violent treatment that asylum seekers say they must endure at the Hungarian border.

According to the international civil rights organization, many refugees complained of being severely beaten by uniformed men and then pushed back through the three-layer razor-wire fence into Serbia.

“Five or six soldiers took us one by one to beat us. They tied our hands with plastic handcuffs on our backs. They beat us with everything, with fists, kicks and batons,” a 34-year-old refugee from Iran said.

The Hungarian police and army denied the allegations, saying they act according to international law when patrolling the border. Human Rights Watch, however, continued its investigation and said it found new cases of abuse.

Head wounds

Researcher for Human Rights Watch Lydia Gall has been interviewing refugees stranded on the border since that time.  A few days ago she posted a photo of a Pakistani refugee on Twitter who was staying in a camp in Subotica, Serbia. The man, who had serious head wounds, claimed he was beaten by Hungarian policemen when apprehended within 8 kilometers of the border.

Gall told Hungarian news website hvg.hu that the man crossed the border fence with 11 of his companions. They walked all night long and went to sleep in the morning. They woke up to being kicked in the head by men in dark green and blue uniforms. (Police patrolling the border wear dark blue clothing, while soldiers wear camouflage uniforms.)

According to accounts, the uniformed men escorted the refugees back to the border and opened a door in the fence. They handed them a document written in Urdu language telling them they had crossed the border illegally. The uniformed men also took some photos. Then they asked them to go back to Serbia one by one.

They followed them to Serbia where they allegedly made them sit and started beating them. The Pakistani refugee says he was beaten twice with a baton and lost consciousness. When he came round, the man beat his right leg as well.

Gall told the paper that many refugees tell similar stories. She added that HRW will continue to monitor the situation and will ask authorities for an explanation. The organization will then publish another report soon.

UNHCR is concerned

A month ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also warned of abuse and violence on the Hungarian border.

Speaking at a press conference, UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler expressed his concerns about further restrictions by Hungary leading to push-backs of people seeking asylum and reports about the use of violence and abuse.

UNHCR has continued to receive reports of abuse and violence occurring when people were apprehended within the transit zones, or in police detention facilities. Reports include cases of bites from unleashed police dogs, the use of pepper spray and beatings. UNHCR has requested the Hungarian authorities to investigate.