TEK commandoes "hit and beat everyone they could get hold of" at Röszke

September 29, 2015

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“They started chanting: “Thank you, thank you”. They were happy. They clapped and walked ahead unmolested. Then something changed. . . . The air suddenly became tense and chilled. And then all of a sudden everyone turned around and started running. It was then that we saw that the TEK were charging them and had enveloped them. They hit and beat anyone they could get ahold of. I saw the attacks, how families were separated. I heard the screams of the children, women, and men, and the calls for help. I saw a mother by the fence huddled over her children, trying to wrap herself around them in fear for their safety, while two TEK commandoes grabbed and took the father away. A tank penetrated the crowd and once again let loose with the water canon and perhaps tear gas. . . .  It was exactly this that we had had wanted to avoid.” – Ibolya Kapta who was assisting a French correspondent at Röszke when police commandoes brutally attacked refugees without cause or warning.

Translation of Katalin Erdélyi’s article “Battle of Röszke looks to be a beating of refugees in live footage taken by Al-Arabia” (“Az Al-Arabiya helyszíni felvételén is menekültverésnek látszik a Röszkei csata”) published by atlatszo.hu

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One of our readers who accompanied a French correspondent for an Arab news broadcaster was witnessed the TEK charge on refugees in Röszke on September 16th.

Ibolya Kapta accompanied the television crew to Röszke on September 16th.   Previously while working as a volunteer to help refugees at Keleti station she met Hussein Kneiber, a French correspondent for Al Arabia News Channel.  On September 16th they travelled together to Röszke to shoot footage.

They arrived to Röszke that morning, where previously the border had been sealed with a Mad Max train car.  They heard the sounds of children, and saw the refugees on the Serbian side with whom Kneiber prepared an interview through the fence.  A pregnant woman with three children told him they had not eaten for four days.  Everyone asked what they were supposed to do now because they would like to formalize their status as refugees.  Ibolya explained to them that they have to go to the “transit zone” and submit an application there.

“They understood.  They wanted to cooperate.  We met around 30-40 people through the fence.  Meanwhile the soldiers and police were patrolling.  They did not like the situation, but they did not do anything against us . . . that is until I wanted to through some food over the fence.  The Hungarian police wanted to obstruct that, on the grounds that that was the responsibility of Serbia.  They couldn’t obstruct us.  We threw the food over.  There were children there.”

After that the volunteer along with the correspondent offered to help the police inform the refugees and to cooperate as a mediator, but the Hungarian office did not think it necessary.  After that they crossed to Serbia.  Around 4 pm they arrived back to Röszke from Horgos, where they encountered a situation that was completely different from the calm they had experienced that morning.

“We heard the shouting and the chanting: ‘Open the door, open the door.’  We saw things being thrown and we saw the water canon.  Helicopters were flying over head, and the entire situation became increasingly dangerous.  At that time there were at least 100 TEK (counter-terrorism commandoes).    As we were were moving along the fence with Hussein, I heard some TEK commandoes conferring with one another:  “Those we arrest we bring here, understand?”  That was before anyone passed through the gate.  The refugees chanted.  We on the other hand tried to persuade the TEK colleague who came over to us to meet with us personally.  He took our information, and we parted company with him saying that we would be allowed to pass through because we had European passports.  He asked us to go over to the border crossing section of the highway, because they could not admit us into the ‘action area’ because there is no gate.”

Then they noticed that a wide band of refugees were crossing over to the Hungarian side.

“They started chanting: “Thank you, thank you”.  They were happy.  They clapped and walked ahead unmolested.  Then something changed.  I had just told Hussein that it looked as though there was no longer any need for us.  But I spoke too soon.  The refugees suddenly stopped.  The air suddenly became tense and chilled.  And then all of a sudden everyone turned around and started running”.

“It was then that we saw that the TEK were charging them and had enveloped them.  They hit and beat anyone they could het a half of.   I saw the attacks, I saw how families were separated, I head the screams of the children, women, and men, and the calls for help.   I saw a mother by the fence huddled over her children, trying to wrap herself around them in fear for their safety while two TEK commandoes grabbed and took the father away.   A tank penetrated the crowd and once again let loose with the water canon and perhaps tear gas.  It was then that we ran to the car and crossed over to the side where the TEK had told us to go.  I sensed, that it was too late.  It was exactly this that we had had wanted to avoid.”

“Following that we waited for nearly four hours at the border crossing for the promised meeting with the TEK colleague, but he never arrived.  While waiting our readers told a BBC correspondent what had happened, and then (Hungarian international spokesman) Zoltán Kovács spoke at the scene.

“Since Zoltán Kovács was walking around there, I thought I would tell him that we wanted to help — what happened, happened, we couldn’t go anything to change that, but in the interest of preventing a bigger catastrophe we were given an opportunity to handle the situation humanely.  The answer we got from him was that there were no individual actions, that everything is being done in an official way, and that I should go and tell what I know to some authority or other.  To this I responded that in a crisis bureaucracy leads nowhere, and that there was no point to this.  Annoyed by what I had said, he stated that that is not the way to handle this.”

Speaking to the Budapest Beacon, the Hungarian spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugess (UNHCR)  said they offered on many occasions to mediate between the refugees and the police, but that Hungarian authorities did not wish to avail themselves of this possibility and rejected their offer.

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“UNHCR was present in Röszke with the necessary experience, equipment and personnel to mediate, including Arabic speakers.”   Unfortunately the Hungarian authorities rejected our offer.  An opportunity was missed.” said Simon.

Previously two photojournalists gave similar accounts. Martin Fejer says the refugees were lured into a trap at Röszke. (Australian photographer) Warren Richardson was wounded during the police charge, and was taken into custody by TEK.  Video footage taken at the scene shows a crowd of peaceful refugees chanting “thank you” after the police oddly withdrew, who were then attacked by the police completely unexpectedly.

A former commando speaking to Átlatszó about the action cited numerous mistakes made by the police.  In his opinion the police escalated the situation.  The Hungarian Helsinki Committee would like for an independent committee to assess the crowd dispersal at Röszke,which resulted in many people being injured.