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Forced to walk into the river at the Greek/Turkish border by Turkish soldiers after being pushed back from Greece

Date & Time 2020-09-18
Location Maritsa River 4 hours NW walking distance from Ipsala, Turkey
Reported by Mobile Info Team
Coordinates 40.94360326, 26.35645577
Pushback from Greece, Turkey
Pushback to Greece, Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 8 - 38
Group size 80
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, no translator present, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved Unknown
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, water immersion, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 1 police officer in a black uniform, Greek police, 5 male officers in black trousers, army-coloured t-shirts and black face masks, 1 dinghy; 20-25 "Turkish army soldiers", white unmarked vans

On Thursday, September 17th 2020, at around two o’clock in the afternoon, the respondent, a 36 year old man from Pakistan was walking alone at a bus station in the city of Xanthi, in order to buy a bus ticket to Thessaloniki, when he was approached by a police officer in a black uniform. The officer was telling him from afar to come towards him. The respondent, who was very hungry and in pain because he had been walking for five days from the border to Xanthi, walked towards the officer, who was then walking him into the police station that was in front of the bus station. The respondent told the police inside the station about his pain and hunger as well as his wish to apply for Asylum in Greece, but the officers did not ask him any further questions. The officer in the black uniform searched his personal belongings and took away the respondents two phones, powerbank, extra clothes, 2000 Turkish Lira, 70 Euros and the bag he was carrying it in. Afterwards they brought him into an extra room, where he had to undress and undergo a body search. Three different police men in brown trousers and brown t-shirts were conducting the body search, after which the respondent was allowed to put almost all of his clothes back on, except a jacket which he was wearing at that time due to the colder weather at the border areas, which the police just threw into a bin.

Afterwards he was brought into the cell at the station, and even though he explained to the officers again that he was hungry and has not eaten for the last two days, they did not offer him any water or food. In the cell were already ten to fifteen people when the respondent was brought in, and by the time he left the cell at night, he estimated that around 30 to 35 people were detained with him. He described the people in the cell coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, and that also families with children were held in the same cell with the men. He described a Pakistan man with his two children being at the age of eight to ten years old and five arabic women with their families. In the cell, the detainees had to sleep on the floor because there was no space, and the toilets were accessible but very dirty.

Around ten o’clock in the evening, it was already dark outside, the respondent was brought into a van with 20 to 25 other people from the cell. The van was plain white and had no windows and he estimated that they were driving for about one and a half hours before they reached a building, which the respondent described as a “border police station”, because of the cells inside and the fact that it was very close to the border.

At the “border police station”, he was in the cell with 80 to 90 people. He described that seven or eight male officers in brown trousers and shirts who were speaking greek to each other, were conducting body searches again, but this time they were taking away the shoes from the detainees. before they started to beat the detainees, including him, by slapping with their hands, kicking with their feet and beating them with metal sticks. Afterwards they were brought into a cell, where they had no food or water and “a lot of dirty toilets”.

After one to one and a half hours, the respondent estimated it must have been around two o’clock at night, all of the detainees were brought to a river by four vans. The vans looked the same as the one that brought the respondent from the police station in Xanthi to the “border police station”, white with no writing on it, metal in front of the windows and a small hole for air circulation. He estimated the drive was about 30 to 35 minutes long. He also stated that the families were put in the van with the men, and that he himself was put in one van with 25 or 27 other detainees. The respondent stated that 3 police officers were in the van, one driving and two in the back of the van with him, which he recognized by their voices because they were the only ones allowed to speak in the van.

When he was pushed out of the van, it was very dark outside and he was only able to see once what the officers at the river were wearing; black trousers, army-colored t-shirts, and black face masks that only showed the eyes. He described them as being different from the officers from the “border police station”. He stated that there were about five officers, but that he is not sure, because he was ordered by them to keep his head down all times and threatened with beatings if he did otherwise.

He stated that the 80 to 90 people from the “border police station” were all at the river, including the families and children. Before the people were brought to the turkish side of the river with a dinghy, the respondent described that the officers were “beating them brutally” with big wooden sticks and that there was “a lot of crying, but they (officers) don’t care”. He was not able to recall if the families were beaten with the wooden sticks as well.

The dinghy, which the respondent described as a plastic and air boat, was driven by two men from Afghanistan, while two Pakistan men on the turkish side pulled the people out of the boat and one men from Afghanistan told the people on the greek side of the river to get into the boat. He described them as young men being between 20 and 38 years old. The respondent stated that 14 or 15 people were put in the dinghy and that the two Afghan men drove it back and forth multiple times.

When the respondent reached the Turkish side, he was walking for about two or three minutes with other men to a road which he described as “not a real road, but for driving”, on which they sat down to rest because they were exhausted. Immediately, five vehicles arrived, which the respondent described as being of an army color with nothing written on them. 20 to 25 men, which the respondent described as “army soldiers” having plates on their shoulders and arms, were coming out of the vehicles, telling the people to go back to Greece, not to come back to Turkey and that they had to go inside the river again to cross it. He stated that the families, children and “small small guys’’ were taken into the back of two of the vehicles and drove off, while the remaining people, approximately 40 men were forced to go into the river. He stated that anybody who spoke up and did not walk back was slapped with the hand, including himself, or kicked with the feet, and that the “army soldiers” were throwing stones at him and the other men while they were walking into the river. The respondent stated that he does not know whether the greek officers were still at the river on the other side because it was very dark, but that he did not hear any noise from the other side when he was forced to walk back into the river.

After one and a half hours standing in the river, after the “Turkish army soldiers” were gone, he and the other men went out on the turkish side and ran away in different directions. The respondent then walked for four hours barefeet to a petrol station in Ipsala together with three men from Pakistan and one man from Syria.