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As soon as I turned to jump, one [of the men wearing a balaclava] slapped me on the ear. Still now, I cannot hear 40% or more.

Date & Time 2023-09-17
Location At the land border between Greece and Turkey, near the fence
Reported by Anonymous Partner
Coordinates 41.571964843126, 26.577302379838
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 35, rest unknown
Group size 2
Countries of origin Algeria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention fingerprints taken
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 4
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved one policeman and one policewoman identified as Greek police officers, one car identified as the Greek police car, two men in civil clothes identified as undercover police officers, one white van, six men in civil clothes with their faces covered with balaclavas, Turkish officers wearing military uniform, one military vehicle

The respondent, a 35-year-old man from Algeria, crossed the border between Turkey and Greece by himself during a night in mid-September 2023. The following day, the respondent was reportedly apprehended by two police officers in Orestiada. After the arrest, he was taken near the border to Turkey with another man from Algeria. Around 2 o’ clock of the same day, the group was pushed back to Turkey by men in civil clothes with their faces covered.

The respondent reported that he was alone when he was apprehended near a gas station in Orestiada by a man and a woman he believed to be police officers. The two police officers were driving a blue and white car that the respondent recognised as a Greek police car. The respondent reportedly showed his passport to the two police officers. After that, the policewoman called two other men whom the respondent identified as police officers in civil clothes. The two men arrived in a white van, which had no symbols or signs on it. The respondent was reportedly taken in the van which drove for half an hour to reach what he believed was a police station, where they picked up another Algerian man. Although the respondent stayed in the van the entire time and was never allowed to go outside, he assumed they stopped at a police station because the other Algerian man informed him about being detained there. During this stop-over, the two men driving the white van reportedly robbed the respondent’s ring and phone. 

After approximately another hour of driving from the police station, the respondent and the other Algerian man were taken to a location described as a forest, where he could see trees and the river “down from there”. He described seeing a fence with barbed wire, separating the border between Greece and Turkey. 

The two men who drove the transit group to the forest reportedly told them to “not make any move”. Subsequently, the respondent and his Algerian counterpart were brought to a group of six men described as dressed in plain clothes and their faces covered by balaclavas. The respondent said they were foreign nationals who spoke English. According to the respondent, this group consisted of civilians hired by Greek authorities to push transit groups back to Turkey, a practice that was extensively reported also in previous BVMN testimonies. Reportedly, the respondent and the other Algerian national were instructed to look down and to avoid eye contact with the men wearing balaclavas. 

During the check-in, if you look at them, they can beat you and it can be even worse. No one can go there, look at them or look around, all the things like that. If you don’t behave correctly, they are going to beat you even harder.

Reportedly, the respondent and the other Algerian man were subjected to violence by this group of men in balaclavas. The respondent described being beaten in the back by one man with a wooden baton; soon after, two or three other men from the same group tried to strangle him. While he was trying to guard his personal belongings, the respondent was repeatedly beaten on his arms and his leg, which consequently became swollen and painful. Moreover, the six men with balaclavas body-searched the respondent and the other Algerian national, who were forced to undress and had their money, clothes, and shoes stolen. While they were body-searched, the respondent and the other Algerian man were reportedly slapped and shouted at in English “Where are you from? Where do you want to go? Why are you in this area? Where did you enter?”. The respondent said the violence lasted for what felt like at least one hour. About the duration of the violence, the respondent added:

I know it  because I hid the money in my underwear so it wasn’t easy for them to check. And also during the check in they were talking to us and slapped us. One [of the men wearing a balaclava] told us “ah you want to go to Europe, to have some drinks etc…” and then he beat us.

After being beaten and robbed of their belongings and clothes, the respondent and the other man were reportedly forced to wear women’s clothes without being told why. 

At this point, the six men with balaclavas tried to push the transit group back to Turkey by swimming in the river. However, immediately, the men with balaclavas noticed the presence of men in camouflage uniforms standing on the other bank of the river. The respondent suspected that the men were Turkish military officers responsible for guarding the border from the Turkish side. The respondent assumed that the group of six men with balaclavas wanted to avoid being seen by the Turkish military so, instead of taking the transit group to the other side, they just pushed them through the river to swim to the other bank by themselves. 

They told us “Go. Now”. As soon as I turned to jump, one [of the men wearing a balaclava]  slapped me on the ear. Still now, I cannot hear 40% or more.

The respondent felt significant pain in his ear, and due to this injury, he almost lost consciousness and felt very dizzy while swimming in the river to reach the Turkish side. Once he was out of the water, the respondent noticed a group of Syrian nationals standing near them. The Turkish men in military clothing promptly arrested the respondent, the other Algerian man accompanying him, and the group of Syrian nationals. The respondent recalled that he could not walk due to the injuries he sustained in his leg. He described being beaten and kicked on his injured leg by one of the Turkish men wearing the military uniform. A few hours later, during the night, the transit group was reportedly transferred to a military vehicle and taken to the outskirts of the Turkish city Meriç.

After approximately ten days, the respondent explained that he tried to enter Greece again with another man from Algeria. He reached Komotini city, where he accidentally fell from a mountain and injured his leg. The other Algerian man who was walking with him had asked for help from a local resident. The respondent was reportedly taken to a hospital in an ambulance, where he received all the necessary treatment for his injury. He was later arrested and reportedly taken to a police station in Komotini, where he was detained for five days. Upon arrival, the respondent had his phone confiscated and fingerprints taken.

The respondent described the facility as “a big room with a lot of people inside”, which he estimated to be approximately 20 people of various nationalities, including Syrian, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, Algerian, and Moroccan. After a few days, the room became overcrowded, and the people detained were forced to share mattresses. 

After five days, the respondent was released along with the group of Syrian nationals. He reportedly obtained a police note allowing him to stay in Greece for 6 months.