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When I was entering in the detention building, one officer put a knife over my neck

Date & Time 2021-04-24
Location Kastanies/Yenikadın
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.667709, 26.473289
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station unknown
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 16 - 45
Group size 80
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Morocco, Jordan
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 37
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, insulting, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved 4 Greek officers (3 in sage green uniforms, 1 in black uniform with “police” written in English), driving two white and blue Nissan Qashqai trucks, with the Greek flag and “police” written on them; 2 civilian-clothed officers wearing driving a white van; 6 officers in sage green uniforms with “police” written/ military rank ID; 2 Greek officers in green camouflage uniforms & balaclavas, big green mercedes military truck; 6 officers in black uniforms speaking Syrian-Arabic & Kurdish, 1 officer in civilians’ clothes & balaclavas speaking Turkish; 8 officers wearing civilian clothes & black sport pant (speaking Greek, some Kurdish), 2 wearing black uniforms & civilian clothes talking in Syrian-Arabic driving a plastic boat 5-6m long, with paddles.

The respondent, a 20-year-old Moroccan man recounted a pushback that happened from Greece to Turkey. He started his trip from Edirne city on the 24 of April at night time, with three other Moroccan men. The age range of the group was between 20 and 30 years of age. After about a 35 minutes walk, they crossed the Greek–Turkish border by climbing through a fence. 

Once they were in Greece, the group walked about two hours. They were in the forest and close to the town of Orestiada, when the respondent identified four Greek officers, wearing uniforms with the Greek flag on their shoulders, who apprehended them. They caught the respondent, but the rest of the group ran away. Three of the officers were wearing sage green uniforms, and one was wearing a black uniform with “police” written in English on it. The respondent described that the officers were driving two white and blue Nissan Qashqai trucks, with the Greek flag and “police” written on them.

After they caught him, the officers started to beat the respondent.

“They asked me to lay down on my stomach, then they kicked me all over my body. They asked me where the other men who were with me kept asking me “where are you from?” in English. I told them that I come from Morocco. They said “not good Morocco” and kept on kicking me and beating me with a baton.” 

The officers took off his clothes and his shoes, and asked him to get in the trunk of a white van. “They hit him with a baton until I got in the trunk”. There was no seat to sit in the car and they were two officers wearing civilians’ clothes driving the car. The respondent was driven for about 25 minutes on an unpaved road. “The driver was reckless and fast”, he said.

When the car stopped, the interviewee was taken out of the vehicle. He was at a detention place surrounded by a fence that was “not so high”, and had barbed wire on the top. The respondent couldn’t identify anything which could indicate that it was an official detention building. There were six officers wearing sage green uniforms with “police” written on it and “something showing their military grade on their shoulders”. The respondent also recalled that there was a big green military truck (Mercedes brand) near the detention site. Based on the description and the time elapsed from the point of apprehension, it is possible that they were taken to Cheimonio Border Guard Station.

The respondent was beaten by the officers. “When I was entering the building, one of the officers put a knife over my neck”. The interviewee told the officers that he was fasting because of Ramadan, so that he didn’t eat anything on the way and was really hungry. The respondent said “they didn’t care. They were brutal. They all had a plastic stick and kept hitting me with it every time they passed me”.

Inside the building, the officers took off the clothes of the respondent and frisked him. “I was like a newborn”. They gave him back his pants and his shirt and put him in a cell where there were already about 80 people that included around 70 Afghani men, 4 Palestinian men, 2 Jordanian men, and one Syrian woman. They were aged between 16 to 45 years old. The cell was 3 meters by 4 and “smelled like pee”. There was a toilet but the detainees couldn’t use it because “it was too dirty and the officers didn’t let us get to it”.

The respondent and his group were detained for one full day, from about 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. During this time, they didn’t get any food or water. There was no translator provided, nor any medical support given to the ones who were injured. The group tried to ask for asylum but the officers ignored them.

“We didn’t have the right to talk, said the respondent. They would have beaten us hard. No officers actually visited us after they had put us in the cell”.

Then, all the detainees were taken away in the big military truck that the respondent saw when he arrived at the detention site. The truck was driven by two Greek officers wearing green camouflage uniforms and balaclavas. They were driven for about 30 minutes, during which time they were colliding with each other because of the lack of space and the fast driving. On the way, the respondent could identify the village of Nea Vyssa. It was not his first pushback so he saw the village in a previous pushback.

The group was brought to a forest surrounded by “small mountains” near the Evros/Meriç River. There, they were met by six officers in black uniforms who spoke Syrian Arabic and Kurdish and one officer wearing civilians’ clothes and balaclavas who spoke Turkish. “One of us talked with him in Syrian Arabic and in Turkish, told the interviewee. Those officers asked where we are from and if we were hiding any money”. 

The officers took the group, while hitting them, to the riverside where there were 8 officers wearing civilian clothes and black sport pants. “They were officers talking in Greek and some talking in Kurdish”, claimed the respondent. In the river, there was a plastic boat waiting, which was 5 or 6 meters long, working with paddles. The boat was driven by two officers wearing black and civilians’ uniforms talking in Syrian Arabic to the people loaded on the boat and Greek to each other. 

The entire group was pushed back through the river, near to Kastanies. They were loaded on the boat, eight people at a time. The officers moved only for 2 meters in the water from the Greek side, then stopped in the middle of the river and asked the people to jump. “We walked in the river, and kept holding our hands”.

The first group of people who were pushed back through the river got caught by what he described as the Turkish army when they got on the Turkish land but the interviewee and the people who were in his boat managed to run away. “Me and my group could escape but I don’t know what happened to the other people”.

Once they were in Turkish territory, the respondent and his group walked until they got to a road where there was a gas station, which was in Yenikadın, then he kept walking on his own until he had reached Edirne. He said that he walked about 10 kilometres in total from the pushback point.