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"They put their fingers everywhere"

Date & Time 2022-12-15
Location At sea, between Turkey (Fethiye) and Rhodos (Lindos)
Reported by Anonymous
Coordinates 36.487879874102, 28.612259542103
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station unknown
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved no
Age unknown
Group size 35
Countries of origin Pakistan, Syria, Nigeria, Congo, Somalia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), forcing to undress, strip search
Police involved On boat 3, identified by the respondent as a Hellenic Coast Guard boat, there were 5 or 6 men wearing weapons. One of them was not wearing a uniform. The others wore a dark blue uniform. On boat 4, identified by the respondent as an orange and grey Coast Guard boat, there were 5 or 6 "muscular masked men" carrying weapons, some with a dark blue uniform. They were reportedly speaking Greek to each other. On boat 5, described by the respondent as a grey boat with a weapon on the front, the respondent could not tell how many people were onboard, but he reported not seeing any woman.

The respondent reported that he was pushed back twice. He chose to share the events of the most recent one, which took place in December 2022. He was part of a group of 35 to 40 people who were told they were going to Lindos, Rhodos.

The respondent reported being in the forest for three days in Fethiye, Turkey, while waiting for the equipment necessary for the crossing to arrive. The respondent described their boat as a tarp with wooden boards. They finally left around 3AM.

Reportedly, around 12PM, they came across another boat [Boat 1]. The respondent described the boat as a sailboat, white and small, with European flags on the side. The respondent saw two people on board that spoke English. He said they were wearing orange overalls, hence he suspects it might have been a fisherman boat. According to the respondent, the people on board asked the respondent’s group to stop. When they had done so and turned off their motor, the people on  Boat 1 reportedly called the Coast Guards. The respondent reported that the two people on Boat 1 were friendly, and were trying to help. 

Around 1PM, the respondent explained that a second boat arrived [Boat 2]. He identified it as a Sea Star Samos ferry after being shown pictures of different boats. He described it as a blue and white boat with a Greek Flag, bigger than Boat 1. The respondent reported seeing four people on board, one of which was a woman, they were not wearing uniforms. They reportedly threw biscuits and water to his group and also called the Coast Guards. 

Around 2PM, a third boat arrived [Boat 3], identified by the respondent as a Hellenic Coast Guard boat. He said there were 5 or 6 people on board, all men carrying weapons. According to the respondent, one of them did not have a uniform, but the others wore a dark blue uniform, and none of them were masked. The respondent explained that he and the rest of his group had to board the Hellenic Coast Guard boat, children first, then the adults, and as they were doing so, they had to give up their phones. He said that one woman managed to hide her phone on her baby and keep it. The respondent reported no violence taking place on that boat. He explained that once the whole group was aboard the boat, they moved away from boats 1 and 2 to join another Coast Guard boat [Boat 4], to which they were quickly transferred. Boat 4 was identified as an orange and grey Coast Guard boat by the respondent, who said there were 5 to 6 people on board that were described as muscular masked men who were all carrying weapons, with some wearing a dark blue uniform. They reportedly talked Greek to each other, and English to them. The respondent reported that to his knowledge no one was searched on that Boat [Boat 4] but some people were beaten, including him, who reported being slapped. He explained that “if they spoke, they were slapped”. Some were reportedly also whipped with ropes. He described the general behaviour of the masked men as brutal. He said that he and his group were taken by force and made to sit on the floor, closely crammed together.

Around 7/8PM, another boat reportedly arrived [Boat 5]. It was described as a grey boat with a weapon on the front of the boat. According to the respondent, the group was then transferred to that boat, on which they were searched. It was dark at that point, so the respondent could not tell how many people were on board, but he specified not seeing any women, and as such assumed that the women in his group were searched by men. Apart from the babies, everyone in his group was reportedly strip-searched, including the five teenagers, the oldest of whom was just fifteen. The respondent  reported having to get undressed in front of everyone, and said that the man searching him was rough but did not hit him, he was wearing a mask and gloves and used a flashlight to search him as well as a hand-held metal detector. He said that he and his group were subjected to full body searches, including of their private parts “they put their fingers everywhere”. The respondent mentioned that the search was “very painful”, and reported that during the strip-search, he was suffering, he had no energy left and was very stressed about what would happen next. He added that others were screaming and/or crying while being searched.

After approximately an hour, Boat 5 reportedly started driving back towards Turkey and turned off all lights. The respondent reported that the group was then forced onto two small round life rafts. He explained that Boat 5 was manoeuvring to push the water to make the rafts drift toward Turkey. He said that the woman who managed to hide her phone called 112 [Turkish emergency number], and that they spent around one hour on the life rafts, until the Turkish Coast Guard arrived. 

The respondent reported he and the rest of his group were detained in Turkey for a week after being pushed-back.