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Violent pushback of 100 people, including women and minors: “One of the blows struck my head so hard that I lost contact with the world for a moment and thought i'm going to die. [The officers] know the war in Libya, but they don't care and never care. And their way of searching women - it was nasty. And they were crying. And we were completely naked the whole time”.

Date & Time 2022-05-17
Location Rigio (Greece) to Saçlımüsellim (Turkey)
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.3977974, 26.5893809
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 15 - 60
Group size 100
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Libya
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, photos taken, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 33
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, sexual assault, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved ed, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving Police involved (nationality, uniforms, vehicles/vessels): 3x men in uniforms, consisting of green shirts and pants with black boots speaking Greek; 1x black uniform speaking English; 1x marine blue uniform with “Police” written on it in greek letters; all armed with black plastic batons and hand guns / machine pistols; 1x black Jeep; 1x white Jeep / landrover both with greek license plates; 1x old white Ford transit van with greek license plates; 2x men in civilian clothing + balaclavas; 1x green camouflage truck; 2 x white vans; 8x men in camouflage green uniform with greek flag embroidery on arm sleeves; 4x men in marine blue uniform; 2 - 3 x men in sage green shirts + pants; all armed with guns either in their holster or a metal baton; 4x men in camouflage uniform armed with machine guns; 2 x marine blue uniform with balaclavas; 1x black uniform with balaclavas; 2x men speaking Farsi in civilian clothing; 2 x men speaking Syrian Arabic in civilian clothing

The respondent, a 35-year-old man from Libya, experienced a pushback from Rigio (Greece) to Saçlımüsellim (Turkey) on the 17th of May, 2022.

The respondent reported that he started his journey in Istanbul on the 13th of May. The respondent together with three other men crossed all together and arrived in Greek territory at 5 pm, 13.05.2022. The respondent described that the group waited and hid for 3 hours until the sun set before they continued walking in Greece.

Around 9 pm, as stated by the respondent, the group passed by some villages and after that they mainly walked through agricultural lands. The group reportedly kept on walking for the whole night and continued for 4 days in total. The respondent described that during the day they rested and walked at night. He mentioned that they walked between 15 – 20 km every night through hills, forests, mountains and tried to stay away from villages. The respondent said that one member of the group had been pushed back several times and recommended staying outside of the villages.

The respondent recalls that on the 4th day, 17 May, the group walked on an unpaved road in a forest and reached the village Sidirio at 8 am. The respondent stated that they continued walking up and near an unpaved road for about 3 km when they decided to take a rest.

The respondent described that the transit group was sitting next to an unpaved road in the forest, resting for a while after their long walk. Because of exhaustion, the respondent said they fell asleep. The respondent stated that it was around 11 am. At some point, the respondent recalls waking up because a man in a green uniform was kicking his legs. When the respondent woke up, he saw 3 uniformed men, 2 of them pointed a gun at them. The respondent stated that these uniforms were green and looked similar as the ones pictured below.

Image 1: Green-uniformed Greek border guards

Around 5 to 10 minutes later, the respondent saw another car arriving. This car, as described by the respondent, was a white Jeep from the brand Jeep or Land Rover. The respondent described this car having blue stripes on it and “Police” written on it. The respondent identified the vehicles to look similar to the ones in the following images. The respondent also saw another car, that he thought the other three man came with. This car was a black jeep similar pictured below. Both cars, according to the respondent, had Greek license plates.

Image 2: Greek Police Jeep

Image 3: Unmarked black Cherokee Jeep

The respondent saw two men leaving the white car. The respondent describes how one of the men was dressed in a black, an unidentified uniform (with no logo or insignia), the other one man was dressed in a marine blue uniform. The uniformed man in blue was wearing a shirt that had “Police” written on it and something in Greek letters and a logo on his left sleeve. The respondent mentioned that all the uniformed men were armed with black plastic batons in their holster, and some of them were carrying handguns or assault riffles.

When the group in transit was surrounded by the 5 uniformed men, the respondent described how one of the uniformed men talked in English to his friend. This uniformed man asked where they were from and took pictures of them with a mobile phone. Then, the respondent stated that the man in the black uniform instructed the transit group to stand up. The respondent was asked multiple times if they were aware of other groups of people-on-the-move.

The respondent stated that then the group’s phones were taken, and they were beaten a few times with plastic batons.

They asked ‘You want to go to Europe?’ and he laughed and I [said] ‘yes’. My English wasn’t good enough to explain to him all, so I told him [that] I want to go to the camp. He kept laughing and suddenly he hit me with the baton on my back”. 

The man in black uniform was the only one who spoke English to the respondent and the others in the group, the other men in green and blue uniforms only spoke Greek.

The respondent recalls that after 1 hour at the apprehension point, the uniformed men made the group walk to where their vehicles were parked. Reportedly, another hour passed while they sat on the ground, waiting. Then, as described by the respondent, a white old transit van “with old tires and old rusty sides and paint” arrived and the group was loaded into the trunk. The respondent mentioned that the car could have been a Fiat or Renault with Greek license plate, but recognized the vehicle as looking similar as as van in image 8.

Image 4: White Ford Van

The respondent recalls that two men in civilian clothing sat in that van. The respondent stated that these men as dressed in civilian half sleeve shirts and sport pants, one of them wore balaclava. The other man, as stated by the respondent, stayed in the van as he was the driver. The respondent mentioned that these two men that arrived with the white van did not talk to the respondent and only one got out of the car, opened the trunk door and loaded the respondent and his three friends in it.

The respondent mentioned that there were already 5 other people detained in the trunk. According to the respondent, all of them were between 20 and 28 years old from and came from Syria, two of them were women. Reportedly, the 5 people explained that they had lost their group near to Thessaloniki and were apprehended there.

The respondent describes the trunk of the van as 4 by 3 meters in size with no windows. The respondent recalls the drive as fast and over many potholes for 5 minutes, and then calm for 50 minutes. The respondent stated that after these 50 minutes the van drove over an unpaved road for approximately 5 minutes before arriving at the detention site. Reportedly, they arrived at the yard of a detention site approximately 2 pm. The respondent described how the whole group was taken out of the van and brought to a room where they had to wait for 15 minutes until 4 men came to search them.

The respondent was not able to see much outside the detention site but recalled seeing 4 or 3 cars (among them one green camouflage truck and two white vans, see images 10 and 11 below) and a wire fence of 2 meters height. The respondent remembered that the detention building had a hallway and a big room where everyone was searched. The cell they were brought to later was located in the same hallway. The building itself, as described by the respondent was white and had a flat roof, in the front part behind it had an open gable with red bricks on the top.

Image 5: Unimog Truck

Image 6: White unmarked van

The respondent recalls that the detention site was surrounded by forest, with no other buildings nearby. He stated that besides one Greek flag on the building, there were no other official signs of police or army.

The respondent recalled that 15 uniformed men were present at the detention site. The respondent described that 8 of them wore camouflage green uniforms with the greek flag stitched to their arm sleeves; 4 of them wore marine blue uniforms with “police” written on it and the greek flag on the left arm sleeve; 2 or 3 men wore uniforms consisting of sage green shirts and pants. The respondent stated that all the men were armed and carried firearms in their holsters. The respondent stated that the men in black uniform who arrived with them were holding metal batons.

The uniformed men asked the group to get totally undressed.

We tried to hide our sensitive parts because the women were with us in the same room, [but] they let us [stay] naked and searched the women. And their way of searching women – it was nasty. [The uniformed man] kept moving his hands all over her sensitive places and when she pushed his hand he would push her hand away and act like he was searching. [The woman] was crying, he screamed at her, took her jacket and while she was leaving he called her back and asked her to take off the shoes. Then he took them to the cell. And we were completely naked the whole time”. 

The respondent recalls the search lasting for 20 minutes, then the men in blue and green uniforms (in total 4) started beating the group with the metal baton for 30 minutes. Everybody (except the women) was beaten, the respondent mentioned that he was specifically beaten on his hands. The uniformed men reportedly took everything from them: Money, backpacks, shoes, food which they had in the bags, cigarettes. The respondent stated that their clothes were thrown back to them “like garbage” and they were asked to wear anything, “so we were wearing each other’s clothes, anything we could find”.

Afterwards the respondent described that they were taken to a cell, which was 10 by 5 meters in size. The building, as described by the respondent had a gable roof, the ground was dirty, there were no windows, and it was full of people. About 100 people were detained in the cell already. The respondent recalled that they were from Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Libya. Their ages, according the respondent ranged from 15 to 60 years and among them were 4 women (all from Syria) and about 7 – 9 minors. After the respondent joined them, the respondent though they were held in that cell for 3 hours, no water or food nor medical assistance was provided. Reportedly, no fingerprints or photos were taken.

The respondent stated that after 3 hours, 4 of the men in green and blue uniform, who had already been at the detention site, took the people on the move from the cell and loaded them in the trunks of two vehicles. As reported, one of them was a white unidentified van, the other was the green camouflage military truck that was parked outside (see image 10). The respondent recalled that the truck had chairs on both sides and a window on one side. The respondent stated that he and 60 other people, including all the women were loaded in the trunk of the military vehicle. During the drive, according to the respondent, the people kept colliding against each other. The driving itself was normal, but the respondent could see that the other car, the van, was speeding. The drive lasted for around 20 minutes. The respondent recalled passing by many agricultural fields and a river untill they arrived at a forest where the van was already parked.

The respondent stated that they arrived around 6:30 pm at the pushback point. Here the respondent saw a small forest, a big agricultural field, and 2 unpaved roads. The respondent stated that there were 7 uniformed men were at the pushback site, 4 wore green camouflage uniform with the greek flag stitched on their arm sleeves (cf. image 14), and 2 wore marine blue uniforms with white, unidentified letters. The men in camouflage uniforms stood aside and watched.

Additionally, as reported by the respondent, 4 men dressed in civilian clothing speaking Arabic and Farsi were present. He stated that the men in civilian clothing, as well as the ones in black and blue uniform, wore balaclavas.

The respondent saw that the men in blue and black uniforms held metal batons while their guns were in the holster.

The respondent described that the uniformed men spoke to the men in civilian clothes who translated to the respondent and the group – in Farsi and Arabic (Syrian dialect). The orders were to remain silent, not to make any noise and especially not to hide anything. They were supposed to stay in a group of 8. The respondent stated that the uniformed men started searching everyone, group by group; everybody, including the women, was being searched again by uniformed men.

The respondent recalled wearing a shirt and pants at that point. He mentioned he could barely walk and was limping with his leg. The man in black uniform was holding a metal baton and reportedly started beating the respondent and his friend for about 3 minutes. The respondent stated that they were beaten all over their bodies, also on the head and the already injured leg. “One of the blows struck my head so hard that I lost contact with the world for a moment and thought I was going to die”. 

Reportedly, some minors were beaten as well. The respondent recalled being in the middle of the people waiting to be pushed back. Reportedly, divided into groups of ten they were loaded into an old rubber boat. This boat, as described by the respondent, was deep blue on the outside and gray on the inside and 3 by 2 meters in size. The boat, as described by the respondent, had no engine but a paddle and 2 of the civilian-dressed men were paddling it. The respondent stated that the two were searching people together with the uniformed men.

The respondent stated that he waited approx. 30 minutes to get loaded in the boat. Then, as described by the respondent, they drove 4 meters into the river and had to jump in the water and continue swimming. The respondent recalled the water level was a little bit above his waist. Reportedly, at 6 pm, all 100 people on the move had been pushed back.

After arriving at Turkish territory, the respondent stated that he waited for his friends. “Everybody was running from the border with their wet clothes”. 

Once his friends came they started walking. The respondent stated that one of them could barely walk as his leg was beaten so hard and they were barefoot.

The respondent stated that after 40 minutes they arrived at a village called Saçlımüsellim where they found many taxis on the one side of the road. The respondent’s friend told him to pick a taxi, because he couldn’t walk anymore. They told the taxi driver that he would get paid once they arrived.

After 40 minutes they arrived in Edirne. The respondent stated that the intention to claim asylum was expressed when they got apprehended. “The officer hit me with the plastic baton on my back and laughed. They know the war in Libya, but they don’t care and never care.”