The respondent is a 26-year old man from Algeria, that described his 7th pushback from Greece to Turkey over the Evros/Meriç River border on approximately the 4th of September 2022.
On the morning of 4th, the respondent described buying a bus ticket for Polykastro at the KTEL bus station in Thessaloniki. As he was walking with a friend to board the bus, he was stopped by two men wearing civil clothes and driving a black civil car. The men in civil clothing, who the respondent reported were police officers, asked him for his passport and to provide documentation or proof of a police note (an expulsion document allowing people irregularly present on national territory seven days to leave Greece, which lets them move freely in the country during this period). The respondent had neither, but replied he was going to catch a bus to Polykastro. The respondent reported that the men proceeded to detain him in the black car and transport him and his friend (who was also Algerian) to a police station in Thessaloniki.
The respondent reported that they drove really fast for 15 minutes until they reached a small building resembling a police station where they had all of their belongings including “phones, wallets and backpacks” taken, after which the respondent and his friend were locked in a tiny cell for two hours without food and water. At the station, the respondent described that there were about five or six men working there; some wearing civil clothing, others in clothing resembling uniforms. The respondent said that he was strip searched by two men in uniform at the station, and when he asked, was denied access to a translator. He also explained that he was completely ignored when he asked for asylum and recounted how he was treated with hostile and aggressive behaviour. The cells were empty when the respondent first arrived, but by the time he left it was reportedly packed with about 50 people (including five minors around 15 or 16 years old).
Later that day, the respondent reported that they were taken in groups of 12 to another bigger building referred to by the respondent as a police station half-an-hour drive along the highway. They were reportedly transported in vans with no windows or ventilation systems, and were driven really fast. The respondent said they arrived at the second station around 4p.m., late in the afternoon. He estimated there were about 20 men wearing uniforms with Greek insignias which matched the symbol on the station wall. The respondent reported they were made to line up and forced to undress themselves in front of everyone, and then two men in civil clothes body searched them individually.
He was then placed in a cell with 60 other people which had the capacity for just 20 individuals. The respondent described that he saw families, including women and children in the cells around him, estimating that there were approximately 300 people, including women, children and families, held at the station. He said they did not have access to food or water and the toilet facilities were “horrible”. Due to the cell being extremely overcrowded, there were many people sleeping on the floor. The respondent said it was “the worst place I have ever slept”, and described being slapped and pushed by men in uniform at the station.
At around midday the following day, the respondent reported that the transit group were moved again in big blue buses to a third station. The blue buses contained cells that could each hold five people. There were four cells on the left hand side and four on the right. He guessed they were around the border area near Komotinin or Xanthi. The respondent recalled being held for three or four hours in the third station (which also had a Greek sign and a Greek flag) where he was verbally and physically assaulted with batons by men working at the station wearing uniforms.
The respondent reported that approximately 70 more people arrived at the station in addition to the transit group of 300 already transported. The respondent was subsequently loaded into a severely overcrowded truck for 40 minutes without room to sit down, and driven to the river. During the journey, a man reportedly tried to look out through a tiny gap in the door to see their surroundings. Then the respondent reported a sudden blinding burst of harsh light which stunned everyone in the truck and prevented the man from looking out. The respondent questioned how the drivers noticed the man glancing out the window, and suggested the possibility of surveillance cameras installed in the truck. The driver of the truck was wearing civil clothes while the two men accompanying him were in “police” uniform. It was reportedly a bumpy road and they were driving fast.
The respondent reiterated that the transit group of about 370 people including women and children were transported to the riverside at approximately one o’clock in the morning. There were many nationalities present in the crowd including people from Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco and Pakistan. Upon arrival they were broken up into smaller groups of 10/12 and placed on a dinghy which was reportedly driven in turns by two Syrian men. The respondent saw about seven men wearing black uniforms with balaclavas and batons, five men wearing blue uniforms and the odd few were described to be in civil clothes. All of them were speaking Greek aside from one man who was reportedly speaking Arabic with a Syrian dialect. He was wearing black pants, a black t-shirt and a black balaclava. The respondent said he spoke to the man in black clothing in Arabic, who told them not to worry and that nobody will fall while they cross the river. The respondent recalled, “he actually made us feel quite better”. Reportedly, as they brought people from the transit group to the dinghy they beat them up individually with batons. The respondent recalled them using batons a lot at the riverside.
Once in the dinghy, it took about two to three minutes to cross to the other side of the river. The dinghy was operated with a “big string” or rope which moved it from bank to bank. When the respondent reached the other side he used some money that had not been discovered and confiscated to get a taxi to Istanbul.