This testimony recounts a violent pushback from Greece, close to Lavara, to Turkey, taken from a 20-year-old Syrian man who was part of the pushback group. This was the 3rd pushback he had suffered – all from Greece to Turkey.
On 25th March, together with six other men from Syria aged between 18-25 years old, the respondent started his journey to the border between Greece and Turkey. The group arrived at the Turkish town of Karayousouf where they spent two nights close to the river. In the following days, 25 men from Syria joined the group. The respondent describes that, while they were waiting, Turkish soldiers passed by and took pictures of the group.
On the 27th of March, at 11AM, the respondent crossed into Greece. On the other side of the border, the respondent joined another group of POM from Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Egypt. There were no women or minors present, and he does not know the exact number of this group.
The respondent and his group – the 5 other men with whom he started his journey – waited until 4PM to continue walking. The respondent described how the group crossed a highway and train tracks. After 4.5 hours, the group was stopped by a group of four men in green camouflage uniforms.
The uniformed men spoke to the POM in Turkish and English. Among the men that stopped them was a person with darker skin colour. One of the POM tried to run away. The respondent said that the men dressed in camouflage clothing followed this man and started beating him. The uniformed men brought him to the car, and the respondent saw how the man who tried to escape was beaten. The respondent and his fellow travelers were instructed to lie down. When they were lying on the ground, they were reportedly beaten by the men who apprehended them.
After the beating, the men were instructed to enter a white pickup truck. The respondent and four other people were put in the back of the car. The man who tried to run away was sitting in the front between the men who apprehended him. Later, the respondent learned that as a result of the beating, this man’s thumb was broken.
After five minutes of driving, they arrived at the detention site. The respondent described the site as an area surrounded by a fence. This fence was two metres high with barbed wire. Inside the fenced area, there was a one-floor building. This building, according to the respondent, had a sky-blue colour and a flat roof. Secondly, within the fenced area, there was a smaller 50 square-meter fenced area. This fenced area did not have a roof and was used to detain the POM. Inside the perimeter of the detention site, the respondent saw white vans, a pickup truck with a blue line, and a truck parked in the area.
At the detention site, the respondent described seeing three men in dark blue uniforms with no masks. The respondent identified the uniforms as being similar as pictured below.
(Image 3 Short sleeved Greek Police uniform)
According to the respondent, when he left the car, the man that apprehended the group started beating the POM with rubber batons. Then, as described by the respondent, they had to undress and were searched outside. Here, the respondent recalled how the man who previously tried to run away was beaten extensively. Furthermore, as described by the respondent, this man was penetrated with the rubber batons by the uniformed men. The respondent said he still remembers the man screaming. Then, after being searched, they were brought to the fenced area. Inside this fenced area, the respondent saw seven men from Afghanistan.
The respondent and the rest of the transit group stayed in the fenced area for 24 hours. During this time, more people were brought in: roughly 50 people in total, including two women but no minors. The people came from Afghanistan, Iran, Tunisia, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, and Pakistan and were aged between 18 and 50 years old. At the detention site, people were given blankets but the respondent said it was cold during the night.
After 24 hours, men came to wake up the people in the fenced area. These men, as described by the respondent, were wearing similar uniforms as pictured above while some wore civilian clothes. The respondent did not remember the exact number of men dressed in these uniforms.
The people detained in the fenced area were instructed to leave the fenced area to be loaded into the van. When they left the area, they were beaten and insulted. The respondent did not see if the women were also beaten. The respondent recalled how the men dressed in blue uniforms repeatedly said “Malaka.” Some POM were only wearing trousers, cotton trousers, underwear, or sleeveless shirts.
The respondent described how they were instructed to enter the back of a white truck. There were about 50 people in the truck. After 30-minutes of driving, they arrived at the river.
When they arrived, the sun was almost rising. According to SunCalc, on 25th of April 2022 dawn is between 5.39 and 6.12. At the river, they were not searched. He saw three cars but doesn’t remember the type or colour. At the pushback site the respondent saw 10 men dressed in camouflage clothing. There were more than 10 men in military uniform. POM were instructed to stand in line, with the respondent first in line. Then in groups of eight, the POM were brought to the river bank and instructed to enter a rubber boat. It was a silver boat with a blue line on the outside. The respondent did not remember any writing on the boat. Two men in civilian clothes (without balaclava) were paddling the boat that pushed back the POM to Turkey. The respondent said that one of the POM tried to talk to the two men but they didn’t reply.
Upon reaching the other side, the respondent rested a bit. One group of people from Afghanistan left the group to walk to a nearby village. The respondent does not remember the name of the village. After some time, the other people started walking until they were stopped by a military vehicle around 3PM. According to the respondent, they were instructed to follow them and were brought to a place that he identified as a military outpost. From here they were reportedly taken to a site described by the respondent as a “military base”. At the military base there was an NGO that helped them. They reportedly gave the POM food and clothes and eventually brought them to a Jandarma station. In this station, the POM were asked for their names and fingerprints, after which they were brought to a camp. The camp, as described by the respondent, had a fence with a tent fabric and some wooden chairs. Inside the area were some electric heaters. The respondent does not remember the location of the Jandarma station or the camp. The respondent described that some of the POM were taken to jail. The Turkish officers released the respondent after three days. When the respondent was released, they reportedly canceled his temporary protection status and gave him a letter that said he had to leave the country within a week.
At no point did the respondent ask for asylum in Greece.