The respondent is a 28-year-old woman from Morocco. She described the pushback she and her husband, 30 years old and from Morocco, endured from Greece to Turkey. They had initially crossed the border from Turkey to Greece, walking for about a day and night before they were apprehended by officers. The respondent reported that this apprehension took place on the 18th of January after walking about 10km, near Lavara, at about 2 pm in the afternoon.
The couple were apprehended by four officers, in a group along with another three Moroccan men and one Algerian man. Reportedly another four officers arrived shortly afterwards. The respondent described the officers as wearing either completely black clothes with balaclavas, or military uniforms without balaclavas. The latter, she suspected, were members of the Greek military.
The respondent explained that, during the apprehension, they did not understand what the officers were saying as they were speaking in Greek or English. “We didn’t understand what they were saying. Even if you try to talk to them, they don’t care to listen and we were so scared to look at their faces” the respondent remarked.
During the apprehension, the officers reportedly beta the respondent and others in the transit group with batons.
When asked if they applied for asylum the respondent stated that they were unable to as they were not allowed to speak. After they were apprehended, they were reportedly taken to what the respondent described as military barracks by car. The journey took about 20 minutes, approximately 10km in distance. The driving was described as reckless and the respondent remarked she did not see anything along the journey.
These “military barracks,” reportedly consisted of isoboxes/containers surrounded by a fence. The respondent explained that this barrack was surrounded by trees and forest, but they could see a village in the distance when it got dark due to its lights. The barracks reportedly had already 24 people when the respondent and her companions arrived, taking the total up to approximately 30 people. The ages ranged from 17 to 50 years old, including minors and women. The nationalities included Moroccan, Syrian, Afghan, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Palestinians. The room they were put in “was the size of the refrigeration trucks to store animal meat” described the respondent. There were toilets in other containers, but not the respondents. Even when they asked to use the other containers’ toilets, they were reportedly not allowed to.
In detention, the respondent reports being searched by a female officer. The transit group was denied access to food and water. “They already took everything from you,” remarked the respondent, referring to the food they had had with them. “When I asked for food, he [officer] told me give me 4 euro I will give you sandwich” explained the respondent – after the officers had taken their money from them. The respondent explained that her husband had told the officers that he had high blood pressure, but he was denied healthcare and she claimed the officers did not care and simply ignored him.
They reportedly spent about 6 hours in detention, before being taken to the Evros River once the sun had set. The respondent describes how they were taken in trucks to the river, and as they got into the trucks were reportedly beaten with a baton. The trucks were big and army camo coloured. 14 to 15 people were put into the truck with the respondent and his wife. The other people in the barracks were taken in a separate truck.
The respondent states that they were driven down a non-paved road, fast and recklessly, as described the respondent. The people that drove them were not military or wearing military uniforms.
The journey took about an hour and a half until they arrived. The respondent reported arriving on a small path by the river, surrounded by a small forest, and a small hill was behind them. When they arrived, she reports that there were three other officers wearing balaclavas and completely black uniforms. None of these officers spoke to them. “They wasn’t military and they just keep hit you with the baton” explained the respondent.
Reportedly, there was a boat ready in the water when they got out of the truck. However, the respondent recalled that the officers on the scene kept changing the place of where they would cross from to not let the Turkish army figure out they were pushing people back.
The boat was described as being about 6-7 metres long, and white in colour. The officers in balaclavas reportedly put the respondent and others from the transit group in the boat. They were taken across and just after halfway across the Evros/Meric River, the officers ordered them to jump in and cross the rest in the water. The respondent explained that they came soon to a village on the Turkish side, near Ipsala.