In December 2021 the respondent together with a group of 35 people left Turkey. From Izmir, they drove for around 2-3 hours to the point from where their dinghy left from the shore. It was around 1h30 or 2 am at night when they left the Turkish shore, the respondent recalls. The group included people from DRC, Somalia, Gambia and. The respondent does not remember the exact amount of children and women in the boat, but that they were much more in numbers than men. He remembers that they were around 6 to 9 men, including one Somalian person with an amputated leg. He also remembers two Somalian pregnant women being part of the group.
The respondent recalls the rubber boat in black color, maybe 5 meters long. The floor was wooden and there was a rope going around the edges of the boat. The brand of the engine was Yamaha.
After approximately 5 hours (the respondent had his phone with him by that time, but didn’t use it as he didn’t have credit), it was still dark when they arrived on Samos. When they started from the Turkish shore only the Captain and the map reader knew the destination. When the boat reached to the middle of the sea they revealed to the rest of the group that they would go to Samos.
(Later on, before being forced onto the CG vessel, one of the officers threatens the transit group, to never come back to Samos).
The area landing the respondent describes as very steep and had sharp rocks. They had to climb up the mountain after they had landed. The hands got cut while climbing up those rocks. The weather was very cold.
Together with four other men, he was climbing uphill. The rest of the group could not climb and was left behind on the shore.
By that time he still had all his belongings with him, including his backpack, money, and phone. But since none of them had a connection they were just assuming their way, not knowing exactly where to head on, but uphill.
At some point, some of them were trying to call for help from some organization, but the calls didn’t get through.
Finally, they arrived at a building that looked like the office of one of the organizations. It was two white containers with the logo of UNHCR. In front of the container, there was a little parking with two vehicles. The exact appearance of the cars and the surrounding of the office is hard to recall for the respondent, as he describes that moment as very stressful.
“We were just in panic.”
It was close to the seaside, maybe 100m from the seaside, he assumes. The five men waited for the office to open since it was still early in the morning, so they went to ask a local on the street, what time the office would open. The person just told them to wait and left. The respondent remembers that two or three minutes later a car arrived. It was a gray colored car with 5 seats, but without any labels on the outside. “You wouldn’t say that it was a police car.” Inside the car were five men. Four of them got out of the car. The fifth person in the car remained driving. Three of the men exiting the car headed straight towards the group of the five transit men. The fourth one started to search the area. None of their faces were covered. Their uniforms were black or dark blue. The respondent recalls the insignia of Greek police on their uniforms. He explains that they never allowed them to look at them. The officers just shouted at the five men “Look down! Give us your phone!”. Among themselves, they spoke what the respondent recognized as Greek, to the migrant men in English. The men who were dressed in a uniform resembling that of Greek police officers asked the group of five men for their phones but didn’t use further violence to get the phones. However the respondent himself gave his phone to the police officers, as he was afraid to be beaten up, he says. Then they ordered them to stand in a line and asked how many people the transit group arrived with on the island. The six men responded that they would not know. The officers did not have covered faces.
Following they went to the police station by foot. They walked for about 10 minutes, estimates the respondent. The five men had to walk in a line, guided by the four officers. One in front of the line, one in the back, and one on each side of the line, followed by the police car. While walking they passed by many houses. However, the police station seemed to be very close to the arrival place of the transit group.
“It was so cold!”
At the police station was already a white minivan waiting for them. The vehicle had two transparent windows in the front and one in the back. Inside the car, there was kind of prison bars to separate the part of the driver from the ‘passengers’. Two of the women who were also in the boat were already sitting inside the van. The five men were ordered to enter the van as well. There were two uncovered officers with the same uniform as the previous officers. Some of the former officers went into another police car, which the respondent remembers as a PickUp with the Greek Police Logo. The PickUp followed the white van. Then they drove the seven of them to the port. It was about 20 minute ride. The street had some curves, he remembers.
At the port, they found the rest of the transit group which has been caught already at the shore (as the respondent learned later), and a lot of police. He doesn’t remember the exact amount of police officers but assumes them to be around 10. However, it seemed like their duty was to bring the people to the port and then to disappear again, as all of them left when the transit group was completely present at the port.
The remaining number of people had been questioned as well about the number of people they had come to the island with and they had responded with the number 35, the respondent learned later.
When the policemen had left the transit group they were surrounded by other men, dressed in civil clothing, wearing jeans and winter jackets.
The respondent remembers a badge with blue background and yellow stars on their uniform, recognized as a Frontex badge. He does not remember if the badge was on the chest or on the sleeves of the uniform. They spoke a language the respondent did not recognize. Their faces were fully covered by a headgear with only three holes for the eyes and the mouth.
At the port, there were three more cars, army green. The respondent doesn’t recall further details on the cars.
He can not remember the exact amount of those men remaining with the transit group in the port since he had to pass several of them to be body checked and couldn’t see all of them at once.
One by one the officers checked their bodies. The transit group has been told to put the bags and the jackets aside. If someone was wearing three jackets, the person had to leave two of them. Everything the officers found on their bodies they took from them, like money, phones, etc.
They only kept their clothes, the respondent recalls. Various officers carried out body checks. They had to remove their shoes but got them back after. The respondent was checked by three different men. They spoke in English to him.
One of the Congolese men refused to give his iPhone. So they beat him up. They even checked on the babies. One of the babies they put on the floor, stepped on it so that it wouldn’t move and removed all its clothes, even the pampers.
One of the women was bleeding and was crying for her (unborn) baby. She was speaking in Somali, so the respondent doesn’t know exactly if she was pregnant and what exactly had happened to her, but he remembers her shouting “baby, baby”.
After the body check, the officers forced the group to embark on the coast guard vessel. They threatened them to go on board the vessel.
“The way they were talking to us was not good. They gave orders (“remove your shoes, go there, etc..”, “If you behave well, we will treat you good. If you behave badly, we will show you.”). They were provoking, mocking on us.”
It was the same officers as on the port. All the transit group had to go in the front and on the side of the boat. The vessel was very big, and gray and carried a small boat on it. After being shown pictures of HCG assets, the respondent singled out the vessels RO (HGC 070) or AGIOS EFTRATIOS (HGC 080) as resembling the one his transit group was forced to board.
On the level of the bridge was another female officer (outside) filming the transit group for the full duration of their stay on the boat. The respondent can not remember having seen her on the port. She never covered her face.
He only remembers that again they were speaking a language he did not understand. He does not remember if the badge was on the chest or on the sleeves of the uniform.
They’ve been driven to the sea for about 30min, he estimates. He describes, that the water was coming up on the deck, and the people became wet.
When the vessel stopped the officers forced them to enter two orange life rafts in the sea. They were already inflated when the respondent saw them. They were orange in color.
The Congolese man who had refused to give his phone refused also to enter the life raft, so they pushed him into the sea. The respondent was already in the life raft and gave the man overboard a hand to enter the life raft.
“It was so scary to me because we were so many people and those life rafts were squared and everyone was scared. Some people had to vomit, and none of us knew how to swim.”
The estimated time of floating in the sea until the Turkish Coast Guard arrived and brought the full group of 35 people back to Turkey was around 30min.
This was one out of seven pushbacks the respondent had to face until he finally arrived in Greece and could ask for asylum.
“Stop these pushbacks. This is not our choice to leave our countries. No one wants to suffer like this. I need the world to be free. they need to open the borders for everyone.”