The respondent is a 32 year old man from Sierra Leone who was pushed back by people that he identified as Greek Coast Guards. He claims to have been intercepted at sea near the island of Lesvos. The respondent was then in Turkey until December 2022 when he successfully arrived to Samos and was taken to the Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC). At the time of recording, the respondent is in the asylum procedure, he has completed his asylum interview and is waiting for his decision.
The respondent reports that he tried the journey from Turkey to Greece 11 times: 5 times he was captured by the Turkish Coast Guard; 4 times the trip was cancelled while he was in the “bush” [the forest] in Turkey; 2 times he arrived in Greece, the first time he was pushed back and the second time he was taken to the Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre.
The respondent reports leaving Basmani at 1:30 AM and the first time he arrived to Greece was to waters very close to an island, which he believed to be Lesvos in mid October 2022 in a boat with around 43 persons of mostly men of African origin, including people from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Congo and Ethiopia with some women. The respondent recalls that some people were also speaking Arabic.
The respondent was not able to confirm the exact location of the event but stated that the whole group was intercepted at around 4AM. The respondent reports that a small boat, the side of which featured a Greek flag came to them, on which were 3 people wearing dark blue uniforms, black boots and balaclavas so he could only see their eyes. The respondent identified them as Greek Coast Guards. At the time, it was night so he could not see so clearly, and he does not remember whether they had a logo on their uniform.
When the respondent and his group were still on the boat they arrived in, the people identified as Coast Guards told them “everybody leave their bags and climb on the boat”. They had to climb into the boat identified as a Coast Guard boat and leave all their belongings in the boat they arrived in. They then towed the boat that the group had used. The respondent reported sadness over the loss of his bag, which contained his phone, he recalled being very sad to lose it and reported feeling pain as he had important information on his phone, including information related to his asylum claim. Others had their phones on them so did not yet lose them at this stage. His wallet in which he had money, and some jewellery were also in his bag, amongst other things.
The respondent said the people he identifies as Coast Guards were mostly speaking in Greek but he remembers them saying “go back to the red light” [Turkey has red lights from a wind farm] and “go back you malaka [Greek slang for asshole]”. They then tied their boat to the Coast Guard boat and towed it towards a bigger grey boat that also had a Greek flag on the side and writing in Greek. Once the group boarded the bigger boat, the smaller boat and its crew departed, still towing the boat the group had arrived in, with all their belongings..
On the big boat, there were 4 or 5 men and 1 woman, they were wearing dark blue uniforms and were identified by the respondent as “coast guards”. They were wearing plastic gloves and their faces were visible, and the respondent reported that all of them had white skin. They forbade them from taking any footage, and when they were on the deck of the big boat, they were asked to give their phones. They were told they would be taken to the camp if they gave their phones. Most people gave up their phones immediately, but the ones that did not were beaten until they did. The respondent did not have his phone anymore, as it was in his bag, so he was beaten as well.
If you refused to handover your phone, they would torture you mercilessly. That’s what they did to me, the coast guards punched me, kicked me, for me to hand over my phone.
The respondent reports being beaten heavily by two men, one of which spoke good English, with slaps that led to pain in his eye, and kicks to the legs. He estimates that the beating lasted around one minute.
They didn’t treat us like human beings. These people are heartless
Everyone in the group was searched, they did not have to undress. Women were searched by the woman and men were searched by the men, one after the other while taking the phones,
they feel every part of your body, they searched our private parts.
The respondent estimated that they spent over 3 hours on the big boat, during which people identified as “soldiers” were making a lot of phone calls. They were told not to worry, that they would be taken to the camp by one of them. During those hours the respondent recalls the boat kept driving back and forth, the respondent doesn’t know why. He reported that everyone in the group was soaking wet and very cold.
There were people crying because of the cold. Some of the other people had expensive phones so they cried for their phones, or cried because they were beaten.
The group was given a phone number to “call Turkey”. They were told it was an emergency line that they could call and Turkey would come pick them up, but they could not call since they did not have phones anymore.
The respondent estimates that at around 9 or 10 AM the group were ordered to get on three life rafts. The big boat had steps they had to come down off. From the steps, then they had to jump onto the raft. The respondent reported that they were forced onto them, and that some were pushed, especially men. He speculated that maybe “they did not want Turkey to see them so they rushed us”. He also reported young children being thrown onto the rafts.
When they were asking us to go to the raft, they didn’t have the patience to let us go on it peacefully. There were 3 women with 3 kids. If the husband was already on the raft they would throw the babies to them on the raft from the boat. There is at least one baby that was not caught and landed on the ground of the raft.
The raft he was put in was the most crowded of the three, he believed it to not be very safe.They spent around one hour in the raft before they were intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guard, which is when they needed it the most because their raft reportedly was losing air.