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we take your clothes and put them aside [...] it's violent, they turn you around with force, they slap you

Date & Time 2022-12-15
Location Near Samos shores
Reported by Anonymous
Coordinates 37.70298780303, 27.047157456649
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved no
Age unknown
Group size 35
Countries of origin Congo
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), insulting, sexual assault, gunshots, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, strip searches, pushing people into the boats
Police involved At least 6 or 7 men identified as Greek coastguards. 3 were shooting. The 3 people who shot wore hoods with only 2 open circles for the eyes and the others wore hoods where the eyes were more visible. They were wearing black uniforms with a symbol on it like arrows. The same symbol was represented on the coastguards' boat, with a Greek flag.

The respondent declared to have been the victim of 3 pushbacks, he doesn’t remember the exact dates of these different pushbacks, but explains that all three took place in 2022 : in August, in September and in December. He explains that the 2 first pushbacks of which he was a victim took place near the Greek island of Rhodes, while the last one took place near the island of Samos.

After explaining to the respondent that we need to focus on just one pushback today in order to collect as much detail as possible, he chooses to tell us about the pushback he suffered in December 2022 and begins to tell us what happened that day.

He explains that it was the beginning of December, without remembering the exact date, and that he left Izmir in Turkey at night on a makeshift boat. According to his description, it was just a boat that needed to be inflated, with boards for people to sit on, once the boat was inflated it became hard – the respondent then referred to car tires to describe the boat to us. According to the respondent, there were between 35 and 40 people on the boat with him, including about 15 women (including at least one pregnant woman) and children, and about twenty men, more men than women. He specifies that there were two children under the age of one and one child of about 2 or 3 years old, there were also unaccompanied minors, but because of the fear he felt at the time he doesn’t remember the exact number. He tells us that the languages spoken by the people on the boat with him were French and Arabic.

The respondent then explains that very early in the morning, just before sunrise, they saw and approached the island of Samos. The boat was approaching a beach and in the darkness he could see mountains and « big stones », but he tells us that it’s difficult to remember the landscape precisely because it was still a little dark, « it was when darkness mixed with light ». He specifies that 2 people who were on the boat and who knew how to swim, left the boat to try to reach the coast by swimming, « they were very close, there was no more depth ». But these 2 people were also arrested with the rest of the group.

The respondent explains that another boat arrived at high speed, making waves, and they started shooting alongside the group’s boat. He then begins to describe the people on the boat who were shooting in their direction : they were hooded and had long weapons, « there was a person without a hood with a small gun », it was possible to see their eyes. As for the weapons, after showing the respondent various photos, it seems that the « long weapon » is an M16 (a military weapon). Only men were present, about 6 or 7 people were visible and 3 of them were shooting, but there were other people inside the boat. He states that the men wore different hoods, the 3 people who shot wore hoods with only 2 open circles for the eyes and the others wore hoods where the eyes were more visible. The respondent states that the uniforms were black and that there was a symbol like arrows.

The respondent then states that the boat also had the symbol with the arrows as on the uniforms and that there was a Greek flag. According to the respondent’s description, it was a Greek coastguard boat with coastguards on board according to the description of the uniforms. He told us that the people were speaking to each other in Greek and that he didn’t understand what they were saying.

The respondent explains that it started to get light and the people identified as Greek coast guards started shooting from a distance around their boat, he tells us his feelings at that moment.

That day – there – I told myself that it was the end of the world, because I can’t swim, but as soon as a bullet hits the boat, we could sink because it’s inflatable.

He then explains that the people identified as coastguards gradually approached them, but the driver of the boat in which the respondent was traveling would not stop the engine, so the coastguards took out arrows to pierce the boat.

They came in front of us, they tried to divert the boat and one of them took out arrows to pierce the boat.

The respondent explains that he asked the boat’s pilot to stop the engine,

 everyone was shouting ‘stop the driver’.

Then the coastguard sent ropes and disconnected the boat’s engine.

Once on the boat with the people identified as coastguards, the respondent told us that he had been the victim of physical violence and that their phones and money had been taken : « as soon as you get on, they will slap you ». He explains that the men are really beaten up and the women are slapped « we were told to lower our heads, they took a cable and hit us with it. Cables that are in boats, but well folded ». One of his friends suffered a broken arm.

The respondent then explains that the coastguard used detectors on their bodies, then searched people in front of everyone, and when the search was over they had to sit down, he specifies that it was cold. He tells us that the search took place naked, that he had to undress in front of everyone,

we take your clothes and put them aside (…) it’s violent, they turn you around with force, they slap you

even women and children had to undress and were searched by men in front of everyone. During the search, the respondent told us that the coastguards talked to each other in Greek and used the term ‘malaka’. He was a witness and a victim of sexual violence, explaining to us that « the coastguards put their fingers inside women’s bodies » and that he had also experienced this. The respondent explained to us that there were 2 people in charge of the searches, while others were in charge of searching the bags.

After the search, the respondent explained to us that they were put on the deck of the boat and had to wait there all day, and that they were not allowed to move or they would be beaten up by the coastguards, « the one who moves will be beaten up », that they had no access to toilets (« if you want to pee, you do it on the spot, we can’t ask for it ») and that they were not given food or water during the day.

Then, when daylight came, the respondent explained that the coastguards started to inflate what looked like a boat, there were several inflated boats in the water and the coastguard pushed them in one by one,

They pushed us into the boats, you could risk falling into the water and not into the boat.

According to the respondent, they pushed everyone, even the children, and he saw a pregnant woman being pushed into the boat. Then he explained that the coastguards had emptied the petrol from the boats and they had nothing to paddle with, people were crying and the waves were taking them away,

people were crying, children, I was crying

The respondent told us that nobody knew what to do, so they started shouting, and one woman with a baby managed to hide her mobile phone, so they called the Turkish coastguards. They stayed on the water for between 40 minutes and an hour, navigating with the waves. Then a helicopter arrived, they all shook their arms to be seen, the helicopter flew over the sea and reported their presence to the Turkish coastguards. He did not suffer of any violence from the Turkish coastguards.

He then explained to us that once back in Turkey, he was taken to the gendarmerie with the others.

 If there were no risks in my country, I would not have had to endure all that (…) it is better to die in the water than to die in Congo