The respondent is a 31-year-old man from Syria. He was pushed back from Greece to Turkey a year ago.
On November 19, 2020, around noon, two months after he received a khartia (Greek police note) and came to Athens, the respondent was sitting next to the church of Saint Panteleimon of Acharnai when a black van stopped in front of him. Four male Greek police officers, all dressed in black clothes with a police symbol, apprehended him.
“So they stopped, the police came to me and they were asking me: Where are you from? And what’s your name?”
The respondent answered the authorities, and gave them his khartia. The officers read his khartia, cut it into four pieces and put it in their pockets. He was handcuffed and placed in a van. At that time, the respondent told the officers that he wanted to give fingerprints and expressed his willingness to apply for asylum.
“And they were saying to me: no, no, go to the car.”
There were two other men in the vehicle from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The respondent estimated that they were taken on a journey of about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to what the respondent describes as a police station. Because his phone was taken by the police officers, he does not know exactly how long the drive was.
No information was provided to the respondent at the police station. He again indicated his willingness to apply for asylum.
“But they were screaming in my face and they were telling me: be calm and be silent.”
The respondent was placed in a room with 12-13 people, even though the room was intended for four people, as there were only four beds. The respondent explained that the people in the room drank from the toilet because they were not given any food or water.
“We were prisoners there.”
After spending between four and five hours in the room, the group was placed on a bus. He explained that there were more rooms in the center and that other people were also placed in the bus. The respondent explained that he was unable to estimate how many people were in the bus, but that it was full. The people who were placed in the bus were not allowed to speak or look at the officers.
“We needed to look at the ground. We didn’t say anything. And if we would look at them, they would beat us.”
The respondent was not sure how many officers were on the bus in total, but he explained that one officer was wearing army clothes. The respondent explained that people were attacked by the police with batons.
The group were driven for around 8-9 hours. They were then made to disembark the bus where there were many men in what was described to be army uniform. These officers wore black balaclavas.
The officers were speaking a language that the respondent didn’t understand, but there were two other Syrians who spoke with the same accent as himself. The respondent explained that they worked with the commanders and that their job was to put everyone in the boat and drive them to the other side of the river.
The officers were checking the people who were sitting on the ground, including the many women and children.
“They took everything from us. They even took 200 euros from me.”
When the respondent announced that he had a khartia, the officers held the respondent’s face whilst beating him on the back with a baton. He also had his shoes taken.
“Each time that I tell them that I have a khartia, they start beating me and they tell me to look on the ground.”
The respondent explained that in addition to the violence he experienced by the army officers, he was also beaten by the people from Syria.
“They were beating the people with the sticks and drove them to the middle of the river.”
A big van then arrived that was carrying a boat. The respondent explained how they put air in the boat and that he was forced to enter the boat. After sunset, when it was dark, the Syrians drove them to the middle of water, where everyone was then thrown into the water.
“It was only one boat. They were dropping us in the middle of the river and coming back to pick up other people to do the same.”
The respondent explained that the water was up to his neck. He walked until he came to the Turkish riverbank coast. Everyone who was pushed back was able to cross the river and arrived at the Turkish coast. The respondent estimates that around 100 people were pushed back that night.
He then walked to the first village and took a taxi from there to Istanbul.
At no point during the apprehension or pushback was the respondent given any food or water.