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If you come back to Greece, we will kill you.

Date & Time 2020-02-07
Location Orestiada, Greece
Reported by Wave - Thessaloniki
Coordinates 41.25096653, 26.36257572
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 65
Group size 50
Countries of origin Syria, Morocco, Tunisia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 7
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, insulting, pouring water over one's head, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 2 Greek police officers, 5 foreign officers in black and army-color uniforms with balaclavas

The respondent, a 21-year-old man from Morocco, was apprehended by two male Greek officers clad in plain clothes, together with two of his fellow travel companions [both males from Tunisia, aged 21 and 24 years old respectively], in the village of Orestiada near the Turkish border, on 30 July, 2020, around 4:00 pm.

According to the respondent, the officers did not ask the group any questions; they just pushed the people into a white van and took them to a nearby police station. This was the 7th time the respondent had been apprehended in Greece and pushed back to Turkey. The group reportedly spent the entire night at the police station, where they were not given any food or water for the whole day. They had to drink water from the toilet. Their phones were confiscated. The next morning, they were taken to another police station, about 15 minutes’ drive away, near the border.

 Upon their arrival to the second police station, the officers threw water on them and spurted water on them from a hose. The treatment there was horrible. 

“They treated us worse than animals,” told the respondent.

They were put together into one room with about 25 other people from various countries, which included women and children. Most of their clothes were taken from them; the men were stripped and only few clothes were returned to them, so they were very cold. Some were left with only one shoe. The officers took their money and other valuables, such as watches and jewelry. The women were searched by male officers without permission. The officers, four clad in army-color uniforms and one in a black uniform, all wore balaclava masks and spoke in foreign languages other than Greek (English, Spanish, Portuguese).

According to the respondent, these officers were physically violent with the group and beat them with metal batons, including women and children. They deprived everyone from food and water. Nobody was given a chance to ask for asylum. If someone tried to speak, they beat them. Our respondent was asked where he was from, and he was afraid to tell that he is from Morocco. The officer told him that he knew that he was from Morocco and started hitting him.

“If you just want to say the word asylum, they will kill you,” the respondent said.

 According to the testimony, an officer in black uniform told them: “If you come back to Greece, we will kill you.” Many people were injured. The respondent was beaten so badly with the metal batons that he could barely walk the next day. At the time of our interview, he still had bruises on his back after one month. 

After a day of violence and mistreatment, the officers put more than 50 people in a large van and drove them to the border, about 10 minutes away. The van was packed with people, who had to stand ducked down to fit in and could barely breathe. An old man had breathing problems and he collapsed when they arrived at the Meriç river. He didn’t receive any assistance; the migrants were ordered to pick him up. The beatings continued at the riverside. The migrants were forbidden to lift their gaze from the ground and were threatened with guns. Those who looked at the officers were brutally beaten by the masked men in black and green army uniforms.

“If you look at them, they can hit you until you die. They don’t care about this. We were so scared,” our interviewee told us. 

The Greek officers then put the group in boats of about 17-18 persons, operated by 2 persons from Afghanistan and an Iraqi, who took the people across the river. The people in distress, scared and beaten, were left wandering through a forest in cold and rain with very few clothes, until they reached the village of Alibey in Turkey. There, the villagers helped the people, who were exhausted and had not eaten for almost 3 days. They also called an ambulance for the old man who had a breathing problem. The rest of the people continued to the Meriç village and towards Istanbul. They were afraid of being apprehended by the Turkish police and being taken to a detention center, due to the danger of the coronavirus pandemic. The respondent arrived back in Greece on the 19th of August.