The respondent is a Syrian national who arrived on European shores in 2015 and was granted asylum in Germany. In 2017 he traveled to Greece to welcome his children who were in the process of crossing from Turkey, due to delays to family reunification in Germany. Unknowing of the consequences, he approached the Greek-Turkish border where he was captured and , despite being in possession of a valid German residence permit, he was illegally pushed back to Turkey. The respondent re-entered Greece through one of the hotspot islands where he was bound by geographic restrictions and could not travel for 6 months. He was eventually allowed to travel to Athens where he could access the German embassy. In April 2019, he relocated to Thessaloniki where he has been waiting for the protection he was granted to be recognized and be given a visa to enter Germany. While waiting for the visa/to be recognized, he was homeless.
On the Sunday of September 20, the respondent was approached by two policemen in Aristotelous Square of Thessaloniki around midday. He was asked for identification which he produced, though he was in possession of an expired document “khartia”, document issued by the police to regularize an asylum seeker’s stay until s/he has access to register her/his asylum application. He was taken to the closest police station to the Square, he stated that on foot it took two minutes. At the police station, his backpack and his belongings were removed: his telephone, his Syrian national ID, as well as other documents in his possession, and 40 euros in cash.
He was held in the police station for about five hours and then he was transferred to a different police station in Thessaloniki. He recognized the police station, as he had been there before and had received a “khartia” from there in the past (the validity of the “khartia” varies between 30 days and 6 months, depending on the nationality of the asylum seeker; recently the practice has changed and the validity is generally 30 days indifferent to the nationality of the applicant).
At the second police station, he was fingerprinted, his photo was taken, and he was asked to sign documents in Greek without being provided interpretation. He was detained overnight until the next day. On Monday, September 21st, the respondent was put in a white van with 10 other persons, and was driven to the border. He described the drive taking about 4 hours and that there were two vans with people destined for the border. He describes the van as being small and having tinted or covered windows. In the van with him, a Syrian Kurd told him how they have arrested him while his child was left in a camp. He could not explain the policemen the situation without interpretation and kept on repeating “baby, baby”. The respondent has lost contact with the individual and was not given more information than presented.
The vans dropped the persons at a location where between 60-70 persons were kept. The respondent identified three Somali women and one older Syrian woman. The nationalities varied, he stated that “they don’t care about your nationality”, seemingly implying that everyone will be pushed back despite protection needs and vulnerabilities.
The officers present during the operation were wearing camouflage uniform, “from yellow to brown”, while other officers were wearing black uniform and balaclava to cover their faces. The respondent states that the officers performing the pushback at the river, wore black clothes and had covered faces. He describes that all were armed with guns and batons.
From the detention place, the respondent as part of a 60 to 70 persons group were driven to the border in a truck. He reports that the officers were violent at times to encourage people to stay quiet or to move in an organized manner from the truck to the boats. He reports that the boat was hidden in the trees on the river bank and taken out to be used to transport people over the river. He also reports that accompanying the policemen he could hear two men who spoke a Kurdish dialect. They “pushed” the boat and assisted the policemen in the operation. The operation took place at night in order to avoid spotting from Turkish border guards, according to the respondent.
Once they were crossed over, the respondent reports that he ran away to avoid interception from the Turkish police, as he is Syrian and could risk deportation to Syria (he is not in the possession of the “kimlik” – Turkish ID – which could provide him protection from deportation). The respondent is currently in Istanbul.