Report from No Border Serbia
Every-day Police Violence at Hungarian-Serbian border – at Subotica & Sid:
Both borders (Serbia-Hungarian as well as Serbian-Croatian) display a
number of similar circumstances: overfilled camps, non-functioning lists
which ensure legal crossings, severe police violence by both Hungarian
police forces (which also widely deploy dogs) and Croatian police (which
adopts the same model of beatings and push-backs for an ever-increasing
number of people) in the case of ‘unauthorized crossings’. The police
violence is documented in official NGO reports (e.g. Amnesty
International in the case of Hungary) and has been included in reports
ranging back to January 2016 (Croatian police violence and push-backs on
the Serbian-Croatian border). But little has changed over all these
months, in fact the violence only seems to worsen. Most of the injuries one can see on the pictures come from dogbites, hits with metal sticks, or fists.
An often under-reported manifestation of the violence at Serbia’s
borders is of a psychological nature. When talking to people in official
camps as well as informal shelters the frustration and distress
resulting from uncertainty regarding the possibility of crossing via
these lists, the confusion resulting from ever-changing policy decision,
the experienced alienation and discrimination due to changing atmosphere
in Serbia regarding migrants, and last but not least suffered traumas
due to arbitrary police violence and prolonged detention. All these
factors lead to a severely damaged mental health of people on the move.
However, it is more complex and difficult to document these (mental)
injuries, and this is only made more complicated by the lack of medical
assistance in camps as well as more generally in Belgrade.
“I tried 6 times. Once I made it until Zagreb.
They destroyed my knee, and they hit me in the face and on my body.” (P.)
“police dogs bit me in the arm, I could not move my arm for 1 month. they used teargas, we could not see and could not breath.” (N.)
Apart from the worsening weather conditions, money plays a huge role:
People are controlled by the police at various sleeping spots (squats,
parks, parking lots etc in the city of Belgrade) during the nights. Often up to 15 people are
taken to the police station, and many end up jailed with dubious fines
demanding up to 280€. Those lacking the ability to pay are imprisoned
and frequently released after a few days in exchange for paying a
‘discounted’ fine (e.g. 20€-100€).
Additionally the racist actions from the side of some locals increased:
Xenophobic neighborhood protests in the park by the railway
station in Belgrade, which occur daily, continue to harass migrants, activists and
anyone they deem to be of another opinion regarding the ‘migrant
crisis’. The numbers of these protesters remain low (~5-15) but their
recourse to verbal and physical violence is increasing, and a consequent
clash could be instrumentalised by the media to boost the participants
of these vigils. It seems paramount to avoid a situation like the one
caused by the group ‘Sauvouns Calais’ in France. Generally one can feel a huge difference in comments and looks against migrants on the streets. Where few months ago there was solidarity and understandingvisible, now a more hostile behavior from the side of the locals can be observed.