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"We offended them by coming here"

Date & Time 2023-03-27
Location Aegean Sea
Reported by Anonymous
Coordinates 38.706551755891, 26.28609946875
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved no
Age 20 - 40
Group size 40
Countries of origin Palestine, Sierra Leone , Ghana, Liberia
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 6
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), insulting, sexual assault, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 6 people wearing dark blue uniforms similar to those of the Hellenic coastguard

The respondent is 24 years old and is from Liberia. He was part of a transit group that consisted of 40 people and included 30 men and 10 women between the ages of 20 to 40 from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Palestine. The respondent recalls a pushback from Greek Territorial Waters to Turkish Territorial Waters on the 27th of March 2023 that included beatings, internal cavity searches and the death of two people, a woman by suffocation and a man by drowning.

The respondent does not recall where in Turkey the group departed from and what part of Greece they tried to reach. He reports they were travelling at night. He remembers they had been at sea for around eight hours until they were found by a “big boat” at around 3am with the Greek flag on it. When shown pictures of a big grey offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard the respondent reports  that the boat looked similar to that. The respondent refers to the people in uniform on the “big boat” as “Greek Coast Guard” and other times as “Officers”. The respondent describes  their uniforms as dark blue but does not recall seeing any flags or insignia on them. He also describes that they were wearing “pistols” on their person. When shown pictures the respondent  points at pictures of the Hellenic  Coast Guard and recalls that the uniform of the people involved in the pushback looked similar. The respondent does not recall seeing drones.  

The respondent described that the “Greek Coast Guard” threw a rope at their boat which hit a woman in the face, cutting her just below her eye. He reports that one of the “Officers” then jumped onto their crowded boat, landing with his foot on another man’s upper back. The respondent recalls that the “Officer” then started hitting the men in the boat with a baton while saying “We’ll kill you, you Africans. If you keep talking, we’ll kill you.”

The respondent details that the transit group was then transferred by a smaller boat onto the “big boat”. The respondent says that there were six “Officers” involved, five men and one woman. He recalls one of them being German, he says another person from the transit group who had already been pushed back several times knew that “Officer” and told him he was from Germany. The respondent explains that the “Greek Coast Guard” spoke to the transit group in English. He adds that they spoke to each other in the same language but he was not  sure of the language. 

Once on the “big boat” the respondent reports that the transit group had to sit on the ground, heads bowed down. He says that if someone looked up at the “Greek Coast Guard” they would be beaten with the baton. He reports that the “Officers” asked them where they were coming from and told the group that if they would not go back they would shoot them. The respondent adds that at this point people in the transit group started crying. He adds: “We offended them by coming here.”

The respondent recalls that the people in uniform then started to body search everybody. The female “Officer” searched the women and the male “Officers” searched the men. All the group members were forced to take off their clothes, the respondent recalls that if they tried to refuse or took too long, the “Officers” would hit them with the baton. The respondent recalls that the people in uniform took all their belongings, including their phones, and threw them in the water and continued to search the people from the transit group for any money. The respondent details that the “Officers” even “searched our inners for money”. He says that when undressed he was told to bend down so the “Officers” could see his anus. The respondent reports that the “Officers” did not check inside him. The respondent thinks this is because the “Officers” saw that he did not have money. He adds that the “Officers” did internal cavity searches of others in the transit group. The respondent continues to say that “[t]hey took everything from us.”

The respondent describes that the “Officers” beat people with the batons one by one and that they would target tall and strong looking people in the group and beat them so they could not fight back. The respondent  recalls being beaten with a baton on the back and says he was blessed because he was not beaten too much. He details: “They will beat you almost to death.”

The respondent recalls that one of the “Officers” ordered the beatings to stop which they adhered to. After this, the respondent reports that the transit group could put on their clothes. One by one the transit group were kicked and pushed from the “big boat” onto an oval shaped black raft without an engine. Some people fell into the water. The people that fell into the water were pulled out of the water by the “Officers” from the “small boat” and put into the raft. 

Once the group was in the raft, the respondent reports that the “Officers” performed dangerous manoeuvres to create waves to push the raft into Turkish Territorial Waters as they did not have an engine on the raft. The respondent recalls that the transit group spent four hours until the “Turkish Coast Guard” found them in the morning hours. They had to wait another hour for a bigger boat to take them back to Turkey. The respondent says that the “Greek Coast Guard” boat was watching them from a distance the whole time, making sure they would not come back towards Greece.

The respondent reports that the space in the raft was so crammed that one woman died while waiting for rescue by suffocation. He says that “she just gave up.” They had to leave her body in the water. He reports that another man fell into the water. He tried to swim back towards the raft but was too tired and drowned.

Back in Turkey the respondent was taken to prison and stayed there for around 2 months.

“It’s not easy to come to Greece.”