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They tell them, 'we will let you fast with Erdogan'

Date & Time 2020-04-23
Location Near to Uzunkopru
Reported by Wave - Thessaloniki
Coordinates 41.26595271, 26.68906722
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 20 - 50
Group size 24
Countries of origin Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 40
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), electric shock, water immersion, pouring water over one's head, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 30 Greek officers, 2-3 females, the rest male. Wearing army uniform, face-masks.

The respondent and and his friend had a white card regularizing their stay in Greece. He had been in the Drama Paranesti Pre-removal Centre for 10 months, and in Greece for 3 years. The respondent shared that he knew people who had been in the centre for longer than 10 months and met people who had ended up there because Greek authorities had promised to give them papers, but then taken them to detention and later pushed them back to Turkey. 

In Drama Paranesti, he shared that people were provided with food and medicine, but were regularly beaten by authorities inside. Many people took part in a recent hunger strike in the centre, but the respondent suggests that people stopped because they were scared it would result in them being pushed back to Turkey as well.

As Ramadan was approaching, the respondent was told by camp authorities:‘We will let you fast with Erdogan’, clearly intimating the intent of officials to carry out a removal during the fasting period. During the hunger strike the officers closed all the doors so no one was allowed outside. Approximately one month ago, people began to get sick inside the centre and the officers refused to take people to the hospital, so people started to fight. This led to the riot police being called on two occasions. 

On the 23rd April 2020, police officers removed at least 24 people from the centre. The Greek authorities told them they would take them to Athens but they were instead taken to the border with Turkey. They were taken in a blue truck (likely a riot van used by the Greek police) meaning they were unable to see where they were being driven. They left the site at approximately 10:00 in the morning. The respondent believes he interacted with around 30 officers, all male except for 2-3 who were women. He said the female officers lied to him and other people in Drama, promising to provide them a paper lasting six months. 

The group were driven by bus to the border with Turkey where they were confronted with an unknown number of officers wearing surgical masks who then used electric tasers and water immersion to torture the entire transit group over the course of six hours. The respondent says that officers held his head under a body of water as a punishment, and also administered electric shocks to the group.

The evening of the same day, the group were taken to the Evros river by authorities. The masked officers (described as ‘military’) beat the group with batons and threatened them with knives. Then the 24 people were put onto a boat in groups of around seven to be ferried across to the Turkish side.

The respondent asserts that three Afghan men were driving the boat and wearing military attire. During the push-back the officers told them:

‘Be careful to come back’.

Many in the group suffered injuries as a result of the treatment from the Greek authorities, and the respondent stated some of the wounded were in hospital in Uzunköprü (TUR) which was the first large town they reached after being pushed back. He also alleged that he knew two people who had been in Greece for up to 10 years and were removed from the Drama Paranesti Pre-removal Centre and pushed back as part of this group.

When they arrived on Turkish land they were met by three Turkish officers who took them to five military personnel. The officers told them they have two options: 1) to cross the river back to Greece 2) to walk 230km to Istanbul. The group of approximately 24 people decided to split up into two smaller groups and walk to Istanbul.