The respondent, a 35-year-old man from Libya, experienced a pushback from Kissari (GR) to Karayusuflu (TR). In 2015 he crossed from Tunisia to Italy, lived in Germany and in 2017 got his asylum claim submitted in Greece after moving there. The respondent was working the past 5 years in Thessaloniki as an electrician, with a legal status which ended 02.03.2022, the day he was pushed back.
The respondent got caught on 28.02.2022 at 10 pm in Alexandroupoli, near to the Ekklisia Agios Nektarios church. He and two other men, from Morocco and Algeria, 32 and 35 years old, were in a car when five men apprehended them. Three of them were dressed in yellow jackets and black pants, similar to uniforms of traffic police. The other two were wearing dark blue uniforms. “Police” was written in capital letters on both uniforms in the front as well as the Hellenic police insignia stitched on the left arm sleeve, which was confirmed according to the image below.
These five men in uniforms were driving two white Skoda, with blue stripes and “Police” written in English on the side.
The respondent could not identify the exact type of weapons they were armed with, as these were in their holster, but he asserted they were carrying firearms.
On the 28th of February, the day they got apprehended, the respondent had received a call at 12 pm from a friend who he has known since crossing from Tunisia. They asked him to give them a ride from Alexandroupoli to Thessaloniki. At about 5 pm the respondent met them in Alexandroupoli, where they were hiding near an old railway and train trolley junkyard. They stayed there until 9:45 pm. The respondent was driving for 15 minutes when he reportedly encountered the patrolling officers on the road. They stopped him and asked for his documents, which the respondent did not bring as he knew there could be the risk of being stopped by police. None of his friends had documents either. According to the respondent, the uniformed men pulled him and his two friends out of the car and left them waiting for 30 minutes outside in the cold weather.
The uniformed men reportedly asked the respondent in Greek if he was a smuggler, what he was doing, where he was taking the men, and if there were any other people around. The respondent explained that he answered by telling the truth about everything, saying that he is legally staying and working in Greece and living in his own apartment.
The blue-uniformed man was reportedly surprised by the respondent speaking Greek and kept telling him that he was in a lot of trouble, calling him a smuggler. The respondent kept denying this and saying that he is not a smuggler.
After being apprehended, the respondent described that the uniformed men searched the three men and also inside the car. They took their phones and then asked them to sit on the ground. They kept the phones and made them sit for another 30 minutes.
After that, the respondent reported that another van came and loaded them into the trunk. The van was described as a white Ford van, nothing was written on it and there was no logo which would indicate that it’s an official vehicle; it did not even have license plates.
Two men arrived in the unmarked white van, described as wearing sportswear jackets and pants, one all in black and the other one in green and black Adidas with white sneakers. Both of them were wearing balaclavas.
According to the respondent, these two officers loaded him and his friends into the trunk, where they had to sit on the floor. The trunk itself was 3 by 2 meters in size.
“I was afraid of what’s going to happen later and my friend tried to calm me down, but it didn’t work”.
The driving itself was reportedly very fast and took an estimated one hour. They could not look outside. Then they arrived at what the respondent believed to be a detention centre, described as an old building, surrounded by a small yard that was fenced. There was no sign saying police station or anything written at all; it looked to the respondent like a military barracks. “I got more afraid”.
According to the respondent there were various vehicles parked inside: two white vans and one red Mercedes van with no license plates and four rubber boats around it. One of the boats was already prepared, the other ones were unused on the side of the van. All were blue and gray coloured.
The respondent could see the lights of some houses around 400 meters away. He recalled seeing what appeared to be many caravans around the houses.
He recounted that there were seven men and one woman at the detention site, all dressed in sage green uniforms with a police logo on their arm sleeves and “Police” written on their chest. Three of them were wearing black bulletproof vests and the others sage green long sleeved shirts or sage green jackets with sage green pants.
“Everything was weird for me, so I asked one of them: “Sir, is there any problem?”. He looked at me and said “You speak Greek?”. I asked him which police station I am and he told me “in hell”. He slapped me on my face and screamed at me to walk inside in a small room, where they undressed us and searched us and every time I tried to talk, they beat us for 5 minutes, while we were naked”.
The uniformed men were reportedly kicking and punching them, and used a plastic baton for the beating.
The money and clothes that were taken during the search were given back to the respondent and the others from the transit group. Only one backpack of the respondent’s friend wasn’t returned, he recalled.
After being searched and beaten, they were reportedly taken to a cell that was 5 by 6 meters big. Inside the respondent described that there was a metal bunk bed without a mattress or a cover and a toilet, which gave off a disgusting smell. The ground and wall were extremely dirty.
According to the respondent, 25 other people were already detained inside, from Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Somali, Libya, and Syria, between the ages of 24 to 40. Two Syrian women were among them; at that point, no minors were detained in the cell yet.
They were detained for two days in that cell, the respondent explained; during this time, the uniformed men brought more and more groups of people to the cell, sometimes up to two per hour.
After two days the cell was completely full, around 250 people were inside, more than 9 women and a baby of 1 or 2 years with her mother, as the respondent described.
On the second day of detention, one man in sage green uniform asked 2 people out of the cell to fill up 3 bottles of water from a tap outside. They shared the three bottles but that was all that was given to them during the 2 days, the respondent testified. “It wasn’t enough, some of us didn’t even get water”.
According to the respondent, no medical help was given to those who were injured, and no water or food was provided for the women and children. Some of the people from Syria were only wearing underwear because their clothes were not returned back at the detention site.
The respondent explained that a man in sage green uniform called his friend and asked the respondent to come out of the cell, after the respondent had told him his story. Outside the cell they reportedly kicked the respondent and kept slapping him and saying “asshole, I will fuck your mum”, and other heavy insults in Greek for about 10 minutes.
After being held in that cell for two days, the respondent reported that nine uniformed men took the group of people at around 1 am or 2 am to the river. They were described as wearing camouflage short sleeve Jackets over a black shirt and black pants; some of them were dressed in civilian clothing, and all of them were wearing balaclavas. Their clothing didn’t have any insignia or logo which would indicate some authority. They were reportedly carrying tree branches with which they beat the group for 1 minute to go faster and get in the vans.
There were several vehicles at the site: 2 white vans, one red Mercedes van, and some Ford civilian vans, but all of them were reportedly without license plates. 70 people were loaded into each trunk according to the respondent; it was hard to stand with that many people, he noted. “We were loaded like sheep in the trunk, women, and kids also inside. Sometimes when [the driver] drifted, we felt like we are going to flip.” The driving itself was fast and reckless and took around 15 minutes. As the trunk was locked and dark, the respondent couldn’t look outside.
They arrived at a small forest, next to the river where the respondent recalled they could still see some Turkish village lights. There were 2 unpaved roads next to the river, one for cars and one for walking. They had to stand in one line in order to be searched. Although they had left the detention site with multiple vans, only the van the respondent was in had arrived by that point at the pushback site. He reported that 15 uniformed men were at the river side. Four of them were wearing green camouflage uniforms, the others were wearing civilian clothing with balaclavas. The green camouflage uniform was described as having a Greek flag stitched to one arm sleeve; the civilian clothes did not show any sign or logo.
These men in uniform were reportedly carrying a night vision scope and all of them had firearms on them. The ones dressed in civilian clothes were holding tree branches, the respondent stated.
The men in civilian clothing were reportedly speaking Arabic and were verbally threatening the group to scare them and ensure they didn’t hide money.
The orders were “Don’t make any sounds. Give the money you have now before we find it while searching you, otherwise, you will be beaten”.
Everyone was standing in one line in order to get searched before going on the boat. According to the respondent, they took money and shoes from everyone, and meanwhile everyone from the transit group was hit with the tree branches. One of the men in civilian clothes held the branch in front of the respondent’s face to threaten him. They reportedly told him in the Syrian Arabic dialect that regardless of if he was hiding anything – although the respondent had already given his money – they would hit him with the branch.
Minors were beaten as well, the respondent explained, and the women out of the pushback group were searched by male uniformed men in a way that amounted to harassment. “The way he moved his hand while searching the women – it’s real harassment”.
After an estimated one hour of waiting next to the river, the respondent – who was almost the last person in line – got on the boat. He described the boat as a rubber boat of 2 by 3 meters in size, which was blue and gray in colour. Eight people plus two drivers were on the boat. The boat did not have any engine so they used paddles. In the middle of the river, the drivers reportedly asked everybody to jump in the water. The water level was over the respondent’s chest. Everyone from their van was pushed back; the respondent stated that he was in the last group of eight who crossed the river.
Once in Turkey, the respondent and one friend started running away from the border through a muddy field in order to hide. They walked barefoot and frozen. Then they arrived in a village called Karayusuflu where they found a public tap. “We were so thirsty, we could barely walk”. For one day and night, they walked before arriving to Edirne. “We ate from some garbage and we found some food from a restaurant until we arrived in Edirne”.
“I didn’t have to ask for asylum because I already have a permit. I told them that everywhere. In response they kicked, slapped and really humiliated me. I really didn’t know this was happening, this way of humiliation”.