The respondent is a 26-year-old man from Morocco who has been pushed back twice from Greece to Turkey at the Evros/Meriç River border area; on the 14th of April 2022 and at the end of Ramadan in May 2022 respectively. He was apprehended close to Kastaneai in the first pushback.
The respondent reported that he and 10 men from Morocco and Syria crossed from Edirne into Greece at 6 AM on the 14th of April 2022. He waited until 10 PM that night before continuing the journey, whereby he was part of a group of 5 people and walked on the main road through agricultural lands outside Orestiada. The transit group was apprehended by authorities at a bridge at 1 AM. Reportedly, at the bridge were 4 officers dressed in black uniforms with vests and 3 men dressed in green military-style uniforms, all wearing balaclavas. The respondent described the men in uniform as “huge” and “muscular” and said they all had batons.
The respondent recalled one of the men in military-style uniforms beat him with the baton on his body and when they started walking, he was pushed with the baton. The group’s bags were searched, their phones, power banks, and shoes were confiscated and their food and extra clothes burned. The officers were reportedly speaking Greek and did not speak English.
The transit group was put into the back of a white unmarked pick-up truck but as it was dark outside, the respondent could not see how many drivers there were. He recalled that they drove for an estimated 15 mins, fast and on an uneven road, “it was like a mountain one, in the village or something”, causing him and the members of his transit group to crash into one another. At approximately 2.30 AM, the transit group arrived at a detention site in the “heart of the forest.” The respondent recalled that it had been raining and the ground was muddy. Three officers described as wearing plain clothes with covid masks and gloves were at the site, and one officer reportedly had an “electricity cable” and threatened the transit group with it saying “if you speak to your friend just one word you’re gonna get beaten with this electric cable.” The group was then strip-searched and given boxers and t-shirts so they would not be naked before being taken to a cell that was very dirty and smelled strongly of urine.
The respondent stated that there were an estimated 65 people in the cells and some of the nationalities he noted were Kurdish, Iraqi, Palestinian and Moroccan. He said he saw women but believed that they had not been beaten. He recalled how he and his transit group were joking amongst themselves in the cell, which angered one of the officers who threatened them with the electricity cable and said he would “beat one of you who is making noise.” The respondent stated that they were not beaten during their stay in detention. He recalled however that they were fasting when they were detained but were denied water from the authorities.
The following morning at 8 AM, everyone detained was picked up from the detention site. According to the respondent, there were two guys who had been “totally beaten” and noted he could see blood. The respondent described how there were two “big trucks” to transport the 65 people and inside they all had to stand and could not see anything as there were no windows. He estimated that the journey from the detention site to the river took about 15 mins and that the driver was not going fast because it was not a proper road, but rather a village or mountain path.
When they arrived at the river, there were reportedly 10 men dressed in green military-style uniforms with Greek flag insignia on their arms and wearing balaclavas, and 8 Syrian men also wearing balaclavas. The respondent recalled that there were 4 dinghies already inflated. He described how each boat had 2 Syrian drivers, one paddling left and the other right, with 7 apprehended persons. The river crossing took approximately 10 mins, where they then reached some land and had to balance and walk over a tree branch, without shoes, for the second crossing to reach Turkish territory. The Syrian men driving the boats reportedly went back to the Greek side of the river and the respondent added that “they are working with the authorities. Yes, he said that they work with them and they are responsible”. The respondent and the members of his transit group walked for a little bit and then took a taxi to Istanbul.
See testimony for a report on the respondent’s second pushback experience.