The two respondents are a mother of 48 years and her daughter, who was 18 years old, at the time of giving the testimony. They are originally from Afghanistan.
Together with two more children, the family survived three pushbacks from Greece to Turkey between 1 May and the end of June 2022.
The two respondents were reporting on their third Pushback which happened end of June 2022.
The family reportedly departed from Çanakkale in Turkey by taxi which brought them to a forest near the shore. There they had to stay for five days. They don’t remember the exact day of the departure from the shore, but both, mother and daughter, recall that it was not on the weekend, but most probably on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
“It was very dark, there was no moon that night. We even couldn’t see the sea clearly. […] The sea was very stormy, rough. The last two or three days in the forest we didn’t have to eat and drink anymore so we had to take off the shore, even as the sea was rough and the weather stormy.”
They reportedly departed at 12h30 or 1 am in the night, knowing that they would head towards Lesvos.
The two respondents describe the transit group as consisting of 42 people including many children. It was mainly families with children. There was one family with five children, and one of them was disabled. The youngest person was a girl of one year, the oldest two persons were 65 years old. The group also included one disabled person with Rheumatism and the respondent herself (mother) has difficulties walking. According to the two respondents, none of the people in the group was wearing a life vest.
The boat they used is described as a black dinghy, around 9 meters long. The floor was wooden and broken because of the wind and the sides of the boat were very low. Because of the wind water was entering the boat while on the sea.
“We were all wet. The ground of the dinghy was full of water. […] We checked with an application about the waves on the sea and it said one meter on the shore. We are sure in the middle of the sea it was double.”
However, the transit group made it close to the Greek shore but was then intercepted by a fast boat that approached them quite rapidly, which the respondent recognize as similar to an LS-602 after being shown pictures of different vessels.
This fast boat carried visibly four men – two of them reportedly with weapons – on board. The respondents couldn’t see more people on board of that vessel but assumed that there must have been at least one driver in the cabin of the boat. The men forced all 42 people of the transit group to board their vessel. None was allowed to take their belongings on board their vessel.
“My brother had a banana bag, but they didn’t let him to bring it on their boat. They cut his bag with a knife. We had to leave all our backpacks in the dinghy.”
“We had to squeeze because there was no space for so many people. And they brought us to the big Coast Guard Vessel.”
The respondent (mother) recalls that the men in the vessel tried to remove the engine of their dinghy with something that she describes as a ‘sharp stick’.
She describes their uniform as dark blue, and all of them wore balaclavas. “The men were shouting all the time.” Once boarded on the vessel only one of the four officers reportedly stayed outside on the deck with the transit group and ‘didn’t let [them] move even one hand.’.
Then the vessel approached a more giant ship which the respondents recognized as ARKOI (HGC 050), and the transit group was again forced to change the vessels. For the transfer from the small boat to the big vessel, they didn’t receive any support. People had to manage themselves to get on board the bigger vessel.
“The big vessel was moving all the time. We thought it belongs to the army and had hope that they bring us to Greece.”
In total, they could see six officers on the big vessel. Their uniform was the same dark blue uniform as the previously described ones. The respondent recalls identifying the insignia of Greek authorities on the uniforms of the men. Their faces were covered as well, but only with fabric masks. The officers forced the transit group to line up, divided by gender.
There were two officers for the line of women and two for the line of men. And two were walking around. The respondents recall that there was a lot of space on the vessel, but still, they made them stand in lines and not move.
One of the officers was a female officer who was doing a full body check including the hair. She touched them everywhere. The respondents report that in that process all phones were taken from them. Only one family could hide their phone.
While waiting on board of the vessel the officers were beating and kicking the men, only men. They reportedly kicked with their boots and hit randomly with black sticks. The respondents claim that later in the detention center in Turkey they discovered that the beaten men had a lot of hematomas.
The respondent (mother) herself is suffering from kidney problems, but the officers on board the big vessel refused to give her any warm clothes. She had to creatively tie the life vest around her hip in order to keep her body warm.
“They [the officers] themselves were drinking tea in front of us but not giving to us.”
“Whenever you wanted to go to the toilet they told you to go to the corner in front of the others. They didn’t give us anything to drink or to eat.”
The respondents recall that they were on board the big vessel from 6 am until 9 pm and were told that they would be brought to Samos.
In the evening then the transit group was forced to enter life rafts near Izmir. First, the officers on board inflate four orange-colored and squared life rafts. The respondents described them as being very small, the floor very thin, and on top they triangle roofs. “You could feel every movement from the sea”. There was some distance between the big vessel and the life rafts, so people were afraid to enter them. When people hesitated to move, the officers just pushed them to the life rafts. They were proceeding very quickly.
“In that place, you don’t feel like a human. They treat you like animals”.
In the life rafts, the two respondents remember that they became seasick. The daughter was on another life raft than the rest of the family. So they tried to approach the different life rafts and attached them to each other so that she could move onto the one where the rest of the family was in.
In each life raft, around 10 people had to squeeze together.
The family which had managed to hide the phone could call the Turkish Coast Guard as they also spoke Turkish. After 30 minutes they arrived and brought the people in distress back to the Turkish shore.
All 42 people of the transit group returned back to Turkey. They were brought to Izmir and there to what the respondents describe as a Detention Center.
“As a refugee, you just have a backpack with all your life inside and then they put you in a place in the middle of the sea, so that you decide not to return. They knew very well that if they drop us close to Izmir that they would bring us to the detention center in Izmir and we would be arrested for at least one month. […] They [people] are coming to be alive, to save their life. It is not to have a better future. We are just trying to save our life. But here they are just playing with our lives. […]
The reason why women come from Afghanistan is that they don’t have a choice, need to wear hijab, and want education. Those who resist will be hanged. They are forced into marriage at the age of 14. If you don’t do this you have to marry someone from the Taliban.”
“We were afraid of the police. Even now we are afraid of them. Since then we cannot trust any authorities. “
“Now people are happy that there is police in the camp [Kara Tepe] and “make” safety. But how can we trust them after such an experience.”