Text by Levke. Pictures by Levke and Francesco Cibati
In Romania, too, people are trying to find a way into Europe every day. The following article attempts to describe the psychological and physical violence and torture to which they are exposed. The information comes from interviews and is not exhaustive.
Nicolas who likes to torture
His name is Nicolas. Many people who have tried to cross the Romanian border from Serbia know him very well. He makes himself noticed. By his physical presence but also by his disgusting way of exploiting and torturing people according to many testimonies. Nicolas is part of the Romanian army and the regime that prevents thousands of people from crossing the Romanian-Serbian border. “We don’t go on Friday, Saturday and Sunday because he is working those days.”
Sometimes it’s a huge hole in the ground somewhere in the field. Other times the blindspot he takes them to is not far from the river. Nicolas looks for places where he can force them to undress so that he can find any money hidden in pockets inside their trousers or in their shoes, according to the information from different people. “Put everything off and on this place” under beating and whipping, Nicolas who is always accompanied and protected by his dog, forces people on the move to put all their clothes on a pile in the middle. But he is not only looking for money. He also enjoys torturing them and sometimes destroying their phones – their only way of keeping in touch with their families and friends.
“Here the dogs do most of the ‘work'”
There are twelve people and this is the third time they have tried to cross the Romanian border first and then the Hungarian border and head west to Austria.
As they crossed the border, they could already see the helicopters circling around them. In addition to that, the infrared cameras used here also identified them, which allowed the Romanian police to send four dogs to the official border. “Here the dogs do the real work when they push us back to the border.” By surrounding them, the dogs push them towards the places where the policemen are hiding so that they finish the job: a push back towards Serbia. They are told “I saw you one time and sent you back and I did the same for the second time. There won’t be a third time: I will kill you when you come back.”
Hacking skills to make it visible who is crossing
“We literally stepped our foot on Romanian territory and we heard an alarm ringing“.
According to different testimonies, there is a new technology to find people: it is believed that using a technology to hack into people’s phones, Romanian police and army officials, as well as Frontex officers, are able to identify the IMEI number of each mobile phone they hack into and then use software to locate them. Once they have this code, the phone can even be located in airplane mode or when the person has not activated its location.
Apparently there is even the possibility of locating a switched-off mobile phone. Since this code allows authorities to add different mobiles to blacklists, a signal can be sent to satellites once the mobile enters a country by connecting to the national network (without having an internet connection). “The siren wasn’t really loud but suddenly a lot of police came out of the forest.” With this technology it is no wonder that more and more people, once they fail to get through, are forced to buy a new phone so that they are not caught straight away at the next attempt to cross.
While according to the testimonies of people who try to cross several times, there are fewer policemen and soldiers at the Romanian border, nevertheless their methods of torture are as horrific as those adapted to the Romanian border, further west.
No human being needs to be exposed to such terrible human rights violations. All of them are going through hell and have no other legal possibility to find safety and protection. We strongly condemn what happens here every day and we stand in solidarity with those who suffer from the inhumane and racist European policy.
Put an end to the borders, their brutal protection and the hatred towards human beings!