Were the police at fault in the clash that blew up on Wednesday at the Serbian border?

Author: András Jámbor Original title: HIBÁZOTT A RENDŐRSÉG SZERDÁN A SZERB HATÁR MELLETT KITÖRT ÖSSZECSAPÁSOKBAN?
Publication: www.kettosmerce.blog.hu, Photo: MTI – Tamás SÓKI Date: 19/09/2015

Were the police at fault in the clash that blew up on Wednesday at the Serbian border?

The chaos in which reporters may have been injured was brought on by the “attack of the immigrants” – this is the position of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the Hungarian police assault of a Serbian TV crew and several other foreign journalists at Roszke. They also consider the Serbian police to be at fault.

According to information from a number of independent sources, there may have been something to precipitate the refugees’ attack on the police in Röszke at the Serbian-Hungarian border. According to witnesses we asked, it was the police who opened the gate and began to let in families, and then closed it (it is not clear why), and then attacked the refugees with batons and gas-spray. The trouble started after this.

444 also published an article about the events, and we also heard from witnesses. It was confirmed by a member of an international organisation and more refugees that before the clash, the Hungarian authorities had opened the gate. Families were also split apart at the gate. Mustafa from Syria – who spoke to us in our video – did not even know at the time of this article where his family was. His wife and children entered into Hungary, while he stayed in Serbia. His brother, meanwhile, was injured so badly after being beaten with a baton that he had to be taken to hospital.

This excerpt is from the article in 444:

Hungarian authorities wanted to let some families with young children in, and opened the border gate. The scores of migrants waiting there supposedly misinterpreted the situation, and started after them in a big crowd. Many of them started to shout, “Thank you, Hungary”, because they thought the border would be reopened. To make matters worse, there were no Arabic translators to help with communication between the refugees and the police, and thus, they did not get any usable information.

However, when they got close enough to the border, policemen started to hit them with batons and shoot at them with a new kind of rubber bullets, and they started to break up the crowd with water cannons, teargas and pepper spray. Panic set in, and the refugees became angry and started throwing things. This escalated into a serious conflict in quite a short time, resulting in countless injuries on both sides.

Similarly to 444, a Czech employee of the UN made the same observations for the Czech press:

The information we received agrees with the story of 444 on the most important points (we did not hear about rubber bullets: this is the biggest discrepancy). According to the people we asked, the police told the refugees they would let them in – and a number of families did manage to enter – but then the police suddenly started to hit them with batons and push them back, and also use pepper spray on them.

Mustafa told us that the police divided the refugees standing by the gate, with families guided to the right, and the others to the left, and they started to let them in, which suddenly turned to a thrashing. His wife, parents and two of their children entered Hungary in the chaos, while he got stuck in Serbia with another one of their children. His brother was injured so seriously that he had to be taken to hospital. (In the moment we were writing, the beaten up man arrived back to the Serbian border.)

According to the employee of an international organisation – speaking without revealing his name or the name of the organisation – Mustafa’s family was not the only one to be split during the conflict.

Based on the statements of those we asked, the trouble that we have already heard about in the media exploded after that. Of course, that is still not a reason for a clash between refugees and police (but it is important to highlight that this was a group of 50-100 people, while during the day 1000-2000 migrants were near the border), but there is no doubt that with their action, the police definitely contributed to the escalation of the situation.

With a review of the Hungarian and international press, we decided to try to double-check the claims.

In ATV’s (left-leaning independent TV station and online news site – trans.) coverage, there was chain of events that reminds us of our own experience and what we heard from 444, but it took place an hour and a half later than the first explosion of conflict.

And on the other hand, we did not find any documentation about why and how exactly the conflict between the police and the refugees started. Many news portals referred to a supposed threat, according to which the refugees set a deadline for the police to let people cross the border, and if they would not, then they would attack. But the clash did not explode at these prolonged deadlines given by random people.

The sole point of reference is a review of the live-stream video of Russia Today, where we can see that at about 1:40 pm the gate was open, and that people were standing inside the cordon of police, and a few bottles were flying, to which the police responded with pepper spray. But it is still not clear why the conflict started and how people got inside. We don’t know either what precipitated the chain of events, because the camera arrived there just then. (Blikk’s video documented the event, from the breaking through of the gate through the following 15 hours, and in the RTL video the closure of the gate is visible, which is broken through later by in the Blikk footage by a group of refugees.)

Thus, while we cannot claim in all certainty that yesterday’s clash truly started this way, after reading many media reports and asking more witnesses to share their experiences, it seems more than probable that the police opened the gate for the refugees.

The police most definitely were at fault for not having any interpreter on the scene when they started the admittance procedure. They did not gauge what the opening of the gate would cause, and then they did not inform the refugees. The decision they made was quick and in a panic, and it disregarded the physical wellbeing of both the refugees and journalists (6 journalists were beaten, according to Index). This raises the suspicion of abuse of power. It is also certain that they did not warn the people around them what would happen before acting; yet, this is the legal obligation of the police. And even during the so-called crowd dispersal, there were no warnings – which are obligatory in such situations.

The question is: who gave an order to let the families in, and why – and what was the aim of that? And what happened to those refugees who were let across the border (from what we heard, they will be sent back to the Serbian border).

Naturally, the police can deny our statements and questions. They had to make video recordings of their actions. Uncut footage would provide the answers to most of our questions.

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