The respondent, a 19-year-old man from Djibouti, reports that he first came to Lesvos in December 2021. At that time, he was traveling with a friend.
On August 3, 2022, he was arrested in Athens and expelled back to Turkey on August 5, 2022.
“Of course I remember, […] how can you forget the date when you were struggling a lot.”
The respondent reports that he was pushed back four times until he arrived in Lesvos, Greece, in December 2021 and was able to apply for asylum. He recalls that on December 28, 2021, he had given his fingerprints to register as an asylum seeker.
“I have photos of me being in the camp. I had appointments with BRF [Boat Refugee Foundation, Medical Actor on Lesvos] back than. Honestly I don’t remember how many times I went to BRF but then they referred me to the [public] hospital on 18th June 2022.”
On August 1, 2022, the respondent left Lesvos and took the ferry to Athens. On August 2, 2022, he arrived and went to one of the camps in Athens. Unfortunately, he cannot remember the name of the camp. On August 3, 2022, the respondent took a bus in the morning to the hospital where he was to be treated.
The respondent does not remember the surrounding of the bus exit, neither the name of the bus stop, but remembers that it was a general place for busses. He was walking with GPS on his phone in order to find the hospital.
“I was not even close to the hospital. […] it was in the center of the town.”
After 15 minutes of walking, it was about 9 o’clock in the morning, as the respondent remembers, he was stopped by three men who were wearing black pants and two of them were wearing a white T-shirt. The third was wearing a different T-shirt, which the respondent thinks was green. Their faces were uncovered. The respondent identified them as police officers as they showed him their police badge.
“There were many people in the street, but I was the only black person.”
The three men asked the respondent to give them his asylum card. They reportedly took it away and took a picture of it. He recalls that they also confiscated his phone. Then they took his backpack, which contained all his documents and medical records. He remembers that he tried to explain his stay in Athens, but he did not speak English or Greek.
‘They didn’t use any violence. They were speaking in their language, I think it was Greek. There was no translator present.’
They put him in a black van that he assumed belonged to them. He describes the shape of the vehicle as an ambulance with “some white people” inside it. In total, including him, they were seven people. The respondent estimates the ride took 30 minutes. He could not see outside, but described the inside of the van as gray and plastic. There were long benches made of wood on both sides of the car. The respondent recalls that there was a driver and two other people sitting in front of the van. The three were wearing a blue uniform and their faces were not covered. When the van stopped, other people forced the seven passengers to get out. The respondent recalls that no translator was present.
“Who would bring a translator to a prison?! It’s a prison. It’s not Pagani.”
When the arrested group left the van, the respondent saw a white building. Inside, he described many rooms with metal bars and doors. The walls were dark blue. The path through the prison was not straight, but had some curves. He describes an office where people, whom he describes as police officers were sitting. The arrested group had to go directly to a cell.
The respondent stated that one person who appeared from inside the building and two of the three people dressed in dark blue from the van accompanied the arrested group through the building. Before they were allowed to enter the cell, they had to take off everything, the respondent explained. Their belts and shoes were taken off. He could observe that they put everything in a bag, but could not see what happened next with all their belongings.
Then the apprehended group had to enter the cell. The respondent described the cell as a large hall with many people, although he could not remember how many people were already in the cell. The room had a window and there was a toilet and some mattresses on the floor, but otherwise there were no facilities.
“Nothing happened there, we stayed in the cell. In the afternoon they brought some rice and other things to eat.”
He reports that he was very scared. No police was present in front of the bars. Only at the entrance people were present whom he identified as police officers.
The next morning, around 11 a.m., the respondent recalls that about 20 of the people detained in the building, including himself were taken to another van. The respondent and the other detainees, he reports, were given back their belongings, including phones, shoes, and belts, so that he could check the time. Based on their language, the respondent suspected that all of the other 19 individuals were from either Afghanistan or Syria. All of them were men.
The van they were taken to was blue with windows and resembled an Iveco Daily, the respondent confirmed after being shown pictures of various vehicles. The respondent describes two people who gave instructions to the group to get into the van. He reports that they did not use force, but yelled at them in a language the respondent did not know. He remembers that there were other people present, but does not remember how many. They were all dressed in a dark blue uniform.
The two men who gave the instructions and a driver accompanied the group in the van. The respondent reports that he stopped at a place he described as a police station. He estimates that the trip took about 5 hours. He says they were taken to an area near Thessaloniki. The group arrived around afternoon. There, the group was taken to another building, which he describes as a “normal” building. All around there were only bushes and trees, nothing else. The road leading to the building may not have been paved, as they were bounced around a lot while driving in the van.
Inside the building, the respondent remembers seeing several people in dark blue uniforms with “Police” written on their chests. He does not remember how many there were. The respondent again describes a large, unequipped hall where many people were imprisoned. It was very crowded. He recognized only one other black person. He suspects the other detainees to be of Syrian, Pakistani, or Afghan origin. He reports that people were shouting a lot but were not noticed by the blue uniformed people. The respondent recalls that during his stay in this building, he only received water, nothing else.
The respondent stayed in this place for one night.
The next day around 7 p.m. – at that time the respondent still had his phone – a truck arrived at the place covered with a white plastic tarp without any labeling. The tarp covered the roof and sides of the truck, as described by the respondent.
Four of the uniformed men who had been seen earlier in the building forced the detained persons into the truck. As far as the respondent could see, they were not carrying weapons.
Because the people in the truck had to squeeze so tightly, everyone raised their necks to breathe, the respondent recalled. They drove for about an hour into the “bush,” again the respondent describing the ride as quite bumpy.
The truck stopped in the “bush” next to a river, as the respondent describes the surroundings. It was already dark, he recalls. The occupants of the truck had to get out and were surrounded by many people with covered faces. Some of the people wore balaclavas that exposed only the eyes, others wore face masks that covered the face only up to the eyes. Since it was completely dark, it is difficult for the respondent to remember what they were wearing. He remembers that they wore clothes dark in color, he could not make out any insignia, but they all had large black plastic sticks in their hands. The respondent reports that the entire transit group was “beaten and shaken” with the sticks by these individuals. Again, everyone was forced to give up their shoes, jackets, and phones. The shoes were simply thrown away, the cell phones were put into a bag, the respondent recalls. The respondent does not remember what happened to phones after.
“[…] the worst was how they beat us.”
After the beating, the respondent reported, the masked men forced the transit group into a boat, which he described as a white and blue dinghy without an engine. On board the dinghy were two face-covered passengers sitting on each side of the it. They had to enter the dinghy in groups of five. The two people with the covered faces moved the dinghy to the other side of the river by paddling, deposited the group there, and then returned. This procedure was repeated until the entire group was on the other side of the river, which the respondent assumed was Turkish territory. From there, the respondent recalls, they had to walk a lot until they reached a village and were able to call a cab to take them on a long ride to Istanbul.