The respondent is a 45-year-old man from Libya who was pushed back from Greece to Turkey at the Evros/Meriç River border area at the end of May 2022. The respondent has been pushed back twice before, a testimony of his second pushback experience can be found here. This report details his third and most recent pushback.
The respondent explained that he had taken a bus with a friend, a 43-year-old man from Libya, from Thessaloniki to Komotini at approximately 8 AM. In Komotini, they went to a cemetery to visit a friend’s grave who had passed away. At approximately 2.30 PM, the respondent and his friend took a bus from Komotini to return to Thessaloniki and had been driving for what he estimated to be 20 minutes before the bus was stopped by officers. He described how two male officers wearing camouflage uniforms, one with a balaclava and the other without, boarded the bus and proceeded to check every passenger’s identification documents. He added that there was a patch with black and green writing on the uniforms but could not recall what it said. Despite having a ‘Kharti’ (a police note) and documents, the respondent was apprehended and escorted off the bus, along with his friend. It is unclear whether or not the friend had documents with him. When the respondent and his friend got out of the bus, there were reportedly two Greek officers in blue uniforms with the Greek flag, along with a blue and white police car. He said that the two officers in camouflage spoke to them in German and believed one of the men to be a native German speaker and noted that they spoke English to the Greek officers. The camouflage uniformed officers proceeded to beat the respondent and his friend with a baton for about 5 minutes according to the respondent. He described how one of the officers asked him about his religion and when the respondent replied he was Muslim, the officers showed him a tattoo on his shoulder of a word which means ‘unbeliever’ and said that he was an ‘unbeliever’ and insulted the respondent for being religious. The respondent’s friend, the 43-year-old Libyan man, was reportedly beaten in the back of the head which consequently bled. The bus had left to continue to Thessaloniki at this point and the respondent noted that whilst they were being beaten up, cars were passing by but that he “didn’t expect people to stop their cars and defend them”.
The respondent and his friend were put into an unmarked white car, with the camouflage uniformed officers and driven to a police station which took an estimated 15 minutes. At the station at approximately 3.30 PM, they were body searched and their possessions were taken. The respondent reported that he had €200 in cash and a debit card which was confiscated along with his phone, power bank, shoes and his documents file, adding that he had “nothing left”. After they were body searched, they were put into a cell where approximately 30 people were being held, which according to the respondent “was very small and we didn’t have space, even to stand.”. When asked about the nationalities and ages of those detained, and if any women or minors were present, the respondent said that he and his friend were the oldest people and that most people were from Morocco, Afghanistan and Syria. No women or children were detained in the small cell. which the respondent said had a small window and was very high. They were denied food during their stay and could only drink water from the toilet, which “was very dirty, so you can’t even use it”. He commented that there was no point in expressing the will to claim asylum as he had valid documents which were completely disregarded. Whilst the respondent was detained, more and more people apprehended were brought into their cell. He said there was a “fence” between his cell and the rest of the station and that he said many cells with beds and people.
At approximately 5 AM, the respondent and those fellow detained with him were taken from the cell, split into two groups and put into two black and blue vans which had no seating. The respondent estimated that they drove for about three to four hours, at the beginning on what he believed to be the highway before travelling on smaller village roads through Orestiada, where they then arrived at the Evros/Meriç River. According to the respondent, when they got out of the van there were already about 100 people including women and families. Approximately three or four Greek officers in blue uniforms with the Greek flag and ‘police’ logo were present alongside two Syrian/Kurdish men who spoke Arabic and English wearing balaclavas, and the respondent added “I hear a lot about them”.
The Syrian/Kurdish men’s role was to transport people across the river. They reportedly asked everyone their nationalities and if someone was Syrian, they were not beaten nor had their money stolen but if from elsewhere, they were beaten and had their money confiscated. The respondent recalled that the two men threatened the group, “telling everybody whoever have money you should give it to us now because if we find it we will beat you up.”.
The respondent described how people were put into groups of 10 before being transported over the river in three inflated black dinghies with yellow tape. He recalled he waited 45 mins before being grouped and put into a dinghy with the last people to be transported, which included his friend, three people from Algeria and a couple from Afghanistan. The journey across the river to Turkish territory lasted an estimated 8 – 10 minutes and noted that on the Greek side, the trees surrounding them had been cut down. Parts of the river were quite deep he said, but the part they crossed over was shallow.
The respondent said that when they reached Turkish territory, the two Syrian/Kurdish men were apprehended by the Turkish Gendarmerie. The Gendarmerie gave the respondent some money which he used to take a taxi to Edirne.