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Multiple groups pushed-back across the Evros river from Greece to Turkey

Date & Time 2020-07-05
Location Evros river, Greece, near Uzunkopru, Turkey
Reported by Anonymous Partner
Coordinates 41.32343679, 26.57661539
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 19 - 65
Group size 5
Countries of origin Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt
Treatment at police station or other place of detention no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 16
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 4 Greek police officers, 12 Greek special forces in black uniforms with Greek flags and balaclavas

The respondent, a 30-year-old man from Morocco, walked for 17 days from Edirne, Turkey, towards Thessaloniki, together with 3 other people from Algeria ages between 20 and 30. On 7th of May, 2020, they stopped in a village near Kavala, Greece in order to buy some food. They had been without food for the previous two days, and they were fasting as it was the Ramadan month. Around this time, four Greek authorities, all male, arrived in two unmarked white vans, accompanied by some villagers in 3 cars. The respondent assumed that a villager must have called the police. The officers immediately became violent with the group-members, striking them several times. After this, the officers used zip-ties to bind their hands, pushed them to the ground, and forbid them from looking up. The police continued to beat them with closed fists and to kick them. Then they pushed them into one of the white vans, which had no windows, and took them to the village police station. 

At the police station, the police took away all their belongings – bags, food, mobile phones, and money. They forced everyone to undress in order to search them and their clothes. According to the respondent, the police were continuously beating them with plastic sticks and insulting them, so they were afraid to express the intention to apply for asylum. The respondent was injured on his back and hands from the beating, but the injuries were not visible anymore at the time of the interview.

The police did not take any information or fingerprints from them and forbid them from speaking. They were put in a room with two other men from Syria and Egypt respectively. The migrants told the police that they were fasting and were very thirsty and hungry in the evening, when it was the time to break the fast. However, the police did not give them any food or water. They had to drink the water from the toilet in the cell.

After spending the night at the police station, at 11 am the group of 6 was put into a large blue bus matching the description of the vehicles used by the Greek riot police. They were told that they would be taken to the Drama detention center, but they were taken to a camp near the border with Turkey. It took 2 and a half to 3 hours to drive from the police station. None of their belongings were returned to them, only the clothes they were wearing, and their shoe laces were taken from their shoes. There were around 80 other people in the camp, including old men. 

At around 1:00 pm, the officers in black uniforms with Greek flags on their upper arms, wearing balaclavas, took a small group, including the respondent and his group. At the site where they brought them, there were 12 officers and some military personnel standing further away. The officers ordered everyone to be quiet and beat anyone who made a sound with metal batons. They put people on a boat. The boat was operated by 3 persons, possibly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, who brought them across the river in groups of 5, driving back and forth.

After the river-crossing, the migrants formed two groups. The respondent was in a group of 25. There was another river branch, which they needed to cross by themselves, so they were soaked in water. The Turkish army spotted them and ordered them to stop, but they started running, because they were afraid of being caught and taken to a detention camp. The respondent told us that one of his friends was being detained in Turkey. During the flight, the group dispersed and the respondent remained together with 3 other people.

They continued walking through the forest until they reached a small village. They were approached by a policeman who offered them to arrange a driver that would take them to Istanbul for 100 euro from each person. Around 5 hours later, the driver arrived and took them to Istanbul. The respondent returned to Thessaloniki on 28th of September, after he had gathered enough money for the trip.