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If you don’t know how to swim, you dead

Date & Time 2020-12-21
Location Neo Cheimonio/Elçili
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.44772573, 26.60754468
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 16 - 65
Group size 55
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Algeria, Egypt
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 31
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, lack of air during car ride
Police involved Several in blue Greek police uniforms with Greek flags, some in green military uniforms, description of a blue armband, white Greek military truck

The respondent describes a pushback that occurred about 8 minutes after crossing the border to Greece from Bosna in Turkey on the 21st of December, 2020. He was apprehended alone near a fence by a dried-up river by eight Greek officers, some dressed in green military uniforms and some in blue police uniforms with greek flags on them. When he was caught, there were several other people whom the officers had caught shortly before. The police stole their phones, power banks, and bags. The respondent explained that the others told the officers they were seeking asylum but the officers did not care, and if they tried to run away they would beat them and force them to undress. 

After they were apprehended the officers called for another truck to take them. The truck was a Greek military truck, white in colour and inside there were 2-3 more Greek officers. The officers collected the people who had been caught, including a pregnant woman, and put them all inside this truck and took them to a detention centre. The journey was about an hour long and the driving was described as reckless.  At the detention centre there were another 20 police officers.

The police officers put the people who had been caught in a small cell in what the respondent described as “no place to stay with a stinky smell”. They had access to a toilet but it was in awful condition too. There were 55-60 people from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Egypt in the cell, including two minors (16 and 17 years old), and 2-3 old men over 60 years old. The respondent explained they were denied food and water.

From the detention centre, the 55-60 people were taken to the Evros River to be pushed back to Turkey. They were taken in a black civilian car with two officers. Their journey took about 40 minutes to an hour to get to the river and the driving was described again as reckless. They arrived in a small forest of trees by the river. An inflatable boat was waiting for them when they arrived but since it was dark the respondent could not give specific details on the description of the boat. The respondent explained they were told not to look at the officers so they were not able to get a clear picture of the officers by the river. But the respondent did say that he did notice some officers wearing black and some with a blue stripe on their arm, which potentially resembles the blue band on a Frontex uniform. The respondent could not say what language these officers spoke and because he was not looking up, he could not describe a flag or other details.

While they were waiting, the respondent explained that these officers beat an old man with a baton because he spoke when the officers told them not to. The group was taken 12 by 12 in a boat across the river and when they got to about 10 metres from the Turkish side of the river, they were ordered to jump and get to the Turkish side themselves. When asked if the drivers of the boat took women and minors all the way to the other side,  the respondent replied “No they don’t care if you are young or man or women or child just you have to swim to get to the other side, if you don’t know how to swim you dead”. The point of pushback was about 30km away from Edirne around  Neo Cheimonio/Elçili.