The respondent is a 19-year-old man from Afghanistan who was pushed back from Greece to Turkey at the Evros/Meriç River border area at the end of April 2022, the exact date unknown. The respondent has been pushed back eight times before, this report details his most recent pushback.
The respondent explained that he was part of a transit group of three people; himself, his 15-year-old brother and a 21-year-old man also from Afghanistan. They crossed the Evros/Meric river at night, the respondent could not recall the time and walked for approximately 23 days until they reached the bus station in Thessaloniki at midday.
Outside the bus station, the respondent reported that two men with white helmets on a motorcycle in black uniforms with Greek insignia on the shoulder stopped the transit group and demanded to see their identification papers, shouting “Ausweis”. The two uniformed men reportedly dismounted from the motorcycle and grabbed the transit group members from the neck of their clothes and their belt so they were unable to run and proceeded to handcuff them together. The transit group members did not have belongings with them, only their cellphones, which were confiscated by the uniformed men.
According to the respondent, the two uniformed men used their radio to call for backup. After an estimated 15 minutes, a white and blue mini-van reportedly marked ‘POLICE’ arrived with two men described as wearing dark blue uniforms with Greek insignia. The transit group were put into the back of the vehicle which had no seating whilst the two men in dark-blue uniforms drove recklessly for what the respondent estimated to be one hour before arriving at a site of detention, which the respondent referred to as a “camp”.
When asked to describe the “camp”, the respondent said it was sort of a “police station” with two floors. He explained that when they passed through a corridor on the ground floor where they saw “a lot of police”.
At this “camp”, the transit group members were searched, but not invasively, by one man in a dark blue uniform with “army boots” and another man wearing what the respondent described as normal clothes. Their belts and shoes were confiscated. They were subsequently taken to a long room with a cement and concrete door where they found seven people being held, so in total, the number of detainees including the transit group became ten. When asked about the nationalities and ages of those detained, the respondent said there was one man from Afghanistan aged 20 and the rest were from Pakistan, their ages unknown. He commented that one detainee was approximately 12 years old with his father who was sick.
The respondent explained that no translator was present and the behavior of the uniformed men was very aggressive. Furthermore, the people detained were denied food and water, with the respondent adding that “there was no toilet, nothing”. According to the respondent, they stayed there for an estimated two hours before the transit group and others detained were transferred to a white unmarked vehicle that had no windows, driven by one man described as wearing light grey army clothes and accompanied by another man wearing dark-blue clothes with a hat. The respondent estimated that they drove “very fast” for approximately one hour, first on “asphalt roads” and then on an uneven road until they arrived at the second site of detention. He further explained that although there were no windows, there was “one hole” in the vehicle that he tried to see through and when the vehicle slowed down at this second “camp” he saw that there “were some garbage bins, it was filled up with the stuff of the people, like a backpack.”. As the respondent had no cell phone, he could not say at what exact time they arrived but estimated about 8 pm.
According to the respondent, this second site of detention had a “basketball court” type area with “offices” on the right and on the left, and there was a “big area with a fence around it”. He further added that there was a “big salon room” which was enclosed by a “concrete” wall and a fence. When asked if there was any signage at the site, to indicate whether or not it was an official detention site, he replied he did not see any. He added that there were approximately 100 people at this “camp” from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The respondent described how four men yielding batons, whom he said were “like soldiers” but could not recall their uniforms, amassed all those detained in the concrete court and screamed “take off your clothes” in Greek. He believed one of the men to be a “supervisor” of the other alleged soldiers and when the people did not understand the command in Greek, three of the men started to beat the detainees and beat people “small mistake or not hearing or not understanding”. The three men strip-searched the detainees, “they started from trouser, checking everything that’s inside, they took it, money, papers, everything […] they were checking inside the vest. They were checking inside the hair,” and their intimate body parts. The respondent recounted how his brother, who has several tattoos, was taunted by the men for having tattoos and asked if he was “working with police?” and if he belonged to “the mafia?”. When the respondent’s brother replied “no, I just love them” the three men “started to beat him crazy”. The respondent said he tried to intervene and was subsequently beaten “very badly”. The respondent estimated that the searching and beating of people lasted approximately 30 mins and after his trousers and t-shirt were returned.
The respondent recalled that at approximately midnight, a “lorry” arrived, whereby everyone detained at this site was transferred. Before entering the vehicle, each detainee was reportedly beaten with a baton. They were subsequently transported to the Evros/Meric border area, which the respondent estimated took 30 minutes to reach from the second site of detention. When they reached the border area, the respondent recounted that one “officer” took people out of the van and beat them:
“they are taking people down slowly and they were beating them that hard that I was hearing from them in the middle lorry, with my brother and I remember I just took his hand, he was shaking back”.
He described how people were taken from the vehicle in groups of twenty and beaten and that he was so frightened he retreated to the back of the vehicle.
“I was so afraid that’s why I went to the end of the lorry but it was very scary, this noise that I was hearing but at the end when they reached for us they just beated one, I don’t know, maybe they got tired.”
At the border area were six men described as speaking Turkish and wearing “black clothes and they had also mask”. He further elaborated that two of the men were stationed by the lorry, two were “making the boat” and the remaining two were “managing the people”. According to the respondent, two of the black-clad men searched people, asking “Paran nerede?”, which means “where is your money?” in Turkish. He reported that if people did not have money, they were beaten.
The respondent described that there was one blue and white inflatable boat which was connected from one side of the river to the other with a cable on top. He explained that people were transported across the river in groups of ten and “they were passing people, coming back very fast, just 10 mins all of that, then again 10 other people there” and added that he was in the last group to be pushed back over the river. When they reached the other side of the river on Turkish territory, people were thrown into the water but near the banks, so those who “could not swim could climb and come up”.
The respondent explained that he and his brother were “so tired and so beaten” that they could not walk to the nearest village and instead sat on a road where they encountered men whom the respondent described as Turkish border police. The alleged officers reportedly gave the respondent and his brother clothes, food, water, shoes and some medicine.