The respondent is 25 years old and from Algeria. The respondent was part of a transit group that consisted of another 33 year-old man from Algeria and himself. They were apprehended at KTEL Macedonia Bus station in Thessaloniki and subsequently pushed back to Turkey in the evening of 6th April 2023 together with 28 other people, including women and minors, from Syria, Sudan and Iran. Previously to this pushback, the respondent had already experienced 6 pushbacks.
The transit group stayed in Greece for three days before being apprehended when they arrived at the KTEL Macedonia Bus station in Thessaloniki on 6th April 2023 between 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning on a bus from Athens. As soon as the bus stopped in the station, three men who the respondent described as civil police officers started checking the documents of the passengers. Because the transit group didn’t have documents, the officers took them off the bus before searching their upper bodies from the outside. They reportedly had a gray car without any writings or signs on it waiting outside, which they used to drive the transit group to a building which the respondent described as a police station next to the KTEL Macedonia Bus station in Thessaloniki.
After arriving at the police station, the officers reportedly took their belongings, their phones, backpacks and their money. The respondent explained that their backpacks were not returned, although their money and phones were. According to the respondent, there were four officers working in the station. Two of them only wore a jacket with normal jeans. After their belongings got taken, the transit group was brought into a cell. The respondent described the conditions of the cell the two men stayed in as “In the cell there is just one bed, there weren’t two. So we just shared one bed”. They were reportedly not given any food or water by the officers and were only allowed to get their cigarettes back.
The respondent notes that the transit group asked for asylum and for camps, “but [the officers] told them to be quiet”.
In the cell there is just one bed, there weren’t two. So we just shared one bed
After sleeping in the cell for three hours, the transit group was transferred to another building which the respondent described as another police station. They were taken in a car similar to the first one that they were apprehended in and there were two officers who the respondent described as police officers. He recalled that they were wearing blue jackets with normal pants, “so it was possible to recognize them”. The drive took around one hour and they were “driving very fast”.
The building that they were brought to was small, but it had a sign written ‘Police’ on it so the respondent described it as a police station. In the station, the respondent reported that there were many people wearing blue police uniforms. One of these officers body-searched the transit group after they arrived at the station. The respondent described the situation as “they told us to take off all of our clothes and they searched us. They searched everything. […] And they didn’t tell you what they were going to do before they touched you. So it was very disrespectful”.
They told us to take off all of our clothes and they searched us. They searched everything. And they didn’t tell you what they were going to do before they touched you. So it was very disrespectful
In the station the transit group was taken to a cell with three other people; an Afghan man around 28 years old and two people from Sudan, a man and a woman in their early 30s. The respondent reported that the group were not given any food or water in this station. The cell had a toilet in it which the group could use without asking for permission. The respondent recorded that it was really dirty.
After staying in the cell for about 1 hour, the respondent explained that the transit group – together with the man from Afghanistan and the couple from Sudan – were taken to a van with a cage in the back and only small windows on the side. In the back it had a metal door. The respondent described that there was a camera in the back of the van. The drive took around 3 hours and again reported that they drove “really fast” so it was uncomfortable to be in the back of the van. On the way, the respondent reported seeing signs out of the small windows of the van which he remembered from a previous trip and was able to locate them in the area of Komotini.
They arrived at around 12 o’clock midday at a big building without any signs on it. The respondent explained it as: “The place doesn’t seem like an army place or a police station. This place is like a garage, like a big garage”. It’s located outside the city with only some houses around. And on the outside of the building there is a fence with barbed wire in some places. But there were men who the respondent described as police officers wearing full police uniforms waiting for them at the entrance. According to the respondent, one of these officers was very aggressive and “slapped him directly without any reason and the other police officer was trying to calm down”.
The place doesn’t seem like an army place or a police station. This place is like a garage, like a big garage.
slapped him directly without any reason
In the building they were taken to cells which the respondent described as cages rather than cells. There were around 20 people in the cells already, including two children and women. According to the respondent they were mainly from Iran and Syria. They were not given any food or water, but the cell had toilets in them.
Except for the two officers, the respondent reported that the rest of the people working in the building were wearing civil clothing. The respondent described the treatment of the people in this building as “disrespectful” with people in the cells getting pushed and the officers “acting violently”. They were speaking a mix of English and Greek and the respondent reported that there “wasn’t any translator around”.
wasn’t any translator around
After arriving at the building at 12 o’clock at noon, the transit group stayed in the cells for about 4 hours. Then, at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the respondent reported that a big van, like a Renault Master, with no windows and only metal arrived. There were already 20 people inside the van and the people working in the building told the transit group and 8 other people out of the cells to get in the van as well. In total there were 30 people in the van. The respondent described the situation in the van as “tight”. In the van the respondent reported to have met one Syrian man who “was in a bad situation, he couldn’t walk at all because of violence. They beat him so badly”. The drive with the van took around 40 minutes until they reached another building which the respondent described as an empty garage.
He was in a bad situation, he couldn’t walk at all because of violence. They beat him so badly.
In this building there were people who, as the respondent recalls, wore uniforms similar to the ones from the army and vests. But he was not able to confirm if they were police or army officers. There was one woman working wearing a vest who reportedly body-searched the women and the rest of the group were searched by men. The respondent reported that they were told to take their jackets and shoes off and they later “pushed back without shoes and without jackets.”
pushed back without shoes and without jackets
They stayed in the building for about one hour before being transferred to the river with the same big van, which took around 5 to 10 minutes according to the respondent. At the river they were told to get out of the van and met a Syrian man who, as the respondent recalled, was famous for working with the people driving the van. This Syrian man along with four other people who worked with him spoke Arabic with a Syrian accent and wore balaclavas for most of the time. The respondent and the rest of the group were told to line up in two lines next to each other. Then, they were pushed back to the Turkish side of the river, ferried across on the boats. One officer who the respondent described as police was checking the situation with binoculars and gave them a sign to signal that they could start the pushback. The boats were reportedly steered by the Syrian people using a rope and they were transferring 6 to 7 people on one boat. The respondent explained that the Syrian people steering the boats were scared of the Turkish army. That’s why the respondent and the other people of the group were “told to be quiet on the boat and the river”.