“Don’t come back to Greece or you will die trying”

  • Date and time: April 1, 2022 11:00
  • Location: Lagyna (GR) to Adasarhanli (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.0838553, 26.2986149
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 10-55 years old , from: Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, gunshots, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 4x men in short-sleeved dark blue uniform; 1x white Skoda with a blue stripe with written police on the side; 1x white Nissan Qashqai; 3x men wearing sage green pants and olive green shirts with police written in yellow on it; 4x men in blue uniform speaking English and Greek; 2x men in black unidentified black uniforms, balaclavas speaking English and Greek; 2x white van (Mercedes and Ford); 7x men with sage green pants and sage green jackets with police written on it.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: no translator present, denial of food/water, personal belongings taken
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

This testimony recounts a violent pushback from the Greek village of Lagyna to Turkey near the village of Adasarhanli. The respondent, a 31-year-old man from Morocco was part of the pushback group. This was his 7th pushback he had suffered – six being from Greece to Turkey and one from Bulgaria to Turkey.

On 26th March, the respondent, together with four other men from Morocco, aged between 21 and 31 years old,  crossed the Greek/Turkish border near the Turkish town of Karaağaç. After crossing the border the group walked for six days through mountains and agricultural fields. On the 7th day of their journey, 01/04/2022, the group ran out of food and decided to buy some food in the Greek village of Kirki. During the interview, the respondent remembers Kirkas Tavern as a key location in the village. Not being able to find food, the group continued and left the village.

At 1 pm, when the group was on their way to leave the village, two men wearing blue uniforms in a white Nissan Qashqai stopped near them. The respondent mentioned the brand and type of the car and said the car had a blue stripe, a logo, and written police on the side of it. This car, according to the respondent, was the same as shown in image 1.  

Image 1 Nissan Qashqai Greek Police Car (New as of March 2020)

When the car stopped, the respondent and the group started running away from the two men. “They were running behind us until we got into a closed alley where they shot in the air and aimed their guns at us.” The respondent identified the gun used as a Beretta M9 as seen in image 2.

 Image 2 Beretta M9

The group stopped. The two men in blue uniforms started talking in Greek and later in English. “Where are you from,” they asked the respondent. The respondent replied and told them “We want to claim asylum in Greece. The man in a blue uniform said ‘ok’ and asked us to sit.” 

Then, a white Skoda with a blue stripe written police on the side arrived at the scene (identified by the respondent as similar to image 3). The respondent told us that both cars had the same logo. The two men that came with the second car, as described by the respondent, wore the same uniform as the two men that stopped them. The respondent said that the uniforms of the four police officers are the same as pictured in image 4, resembling Greek Police uniforms.

Image 3 Skoda Octavia Greek Police Car
Image 4 Short-sleeved Greek Police uniform

The group was separated and loaded into the two cars. They then drove for forty minutes.  The respondent was able to look outside and recalled that they were driving near the sea. They eventually entered a small alley.  In this alley, the respondent saw three white motorcycles and two white pickup trucks with police written on it. He told us that the vehicles he saw are the same as pictured below.

Image 4 Suzuki V-Strom motorcycles (New as of March 2020)
 Image 5 Greek Police Nissan Pick-up truck

The group of men were taken out of the cars and escorted into a yellow building. This building, as described by the respondent, was in an alley and at the end of this alley he saw restaurants. In front of the building he saw a Greek flag. This description may match the Alexandropolis police station Once inside, the group was brought to a small room. The four men in blue uniforms who brought them to this location left. Inside the building, the officers were wearing sage green pants and olive green shirts with police written in yellow on it. The respondent said the uniforms are similar to the ones pictured below.

Image 6 ΑΣΤΥΝΟΜΙΑ police (Riot police)

It was around 3 pm when in the small room three men in green uniforms searched the group. They asked them to give up their phones and empty their pockets. The men in green uniforms were asking the group questions in English. The respondent said,  “sometimes they slapped one of us and they kept on saying the word ‘’Malaka’’. 

The group was not registered in this building and they also didn’t sign any documents. They were not given food or water. After around thirty minutes, the group was escorted to a white Ford Van that brought them to another location. The respondent identified the car as being similar to the one pictured below.

Image 7 White Ford Van

 The group was in the back of the car and the people could not look outside. At 3.30 pm the group arrived at a detention site.

The respondent described the area as surrounded by a one-meter high fence with barbed wire on the top. The area was surrounded by trees and he saw two roads; one paved and one unpaved, approximately 50 meters from the entrance of the building. The building was white and had a Greek flag on top of it. Inside the area there were many “old tires and trails”

Inside the detention site, seven men wearing sage green jackets and pants were present. Their uniforms, according to the respondent, had police written on their shoulders similar to the uniform in the image below.

Image 8 Green-uniformed Greek border guards 

“When we arrived they took us inside a big room. In the hallway they asked us to undress completely and started searching every part of our clothes”. Before they gave back their clothes, the respondents said “they started beating us and kicking us and then punching us and hitting us with a plastic baton”.

After approximately 15 minutes, the group was brought to a cell. He described the cells as follows: “The cell was like a garage and it was in the back of the detention site.” The cel was made of bricks and a fence covering it. The cell was around seven by eight meters and surrounded by a fence. The ground of the cell was from “soil ground”. Inside the cell, there were two metal bunk beds and a dirty toilet with a bad smell. “The roof had red brick-like an old farm”.

The respondents said that when they arrived “there were around sixty other people” but every hour they brought 15 to 20 more people.  After five hours, there were more than 170 people in the cell. The respondent described that men, women, and minors from Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey between the age of 10 and 55 years were detained with him. There were 5 women and 22 minors of which 20 were unaccompanied minors.

The respondent was kept in this detention site for five hours. At this point he was not given water or food, his documents were not checked, there was no interpreter and they didn’t take his fingerprints or photos.

At 9 pm, approximately five hours after the respondent was brought to the detention site, men wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas and men wearing blue uniforms took the people from the detention site and loaded them into white vans. The respondent both recognized the blue uniform from the picture (see below) and identified four unmarked cars at the detention site; one red Mercedes van and two white Mercedes vans, and one white Ford van.

Image 9 Long sleeve Greek Border Guard uniform 
Image 10 White unmarked van – often Mercedes or Renault
Image 11 White Ford Van

The respondent told us that he was with around 40 other POMs in the van. The drive, as described by the respondent, was fast and reckless and took around 10 minutes. Once outside of the van, the respondent saw that they stopped in an agricultural field and in the background he saw the lights of a city.  There was also another white van. In front of him he saw a small forest. This forest, as he later describes, was in front of the river. 

The respondent described that there were around 80 people at the pushback site. The respondent shared that there were people from Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria,  and Turkey aged between 10 and 55 years old. There were five women and around 20 minors.

At the pushback site, there were twelve men the respondent described as being involved in the pushback. The respondent told us that all the twelve men involved in the pushback spoke Greek to each other.

6 of them were wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas, 4 wearing the same blue uniform as the ones in the detention site (image 9), identified as Greek Border Guard uniform.

2 men were wearing a black uniform with no insignia, logo or flag, and wore black balaclavas and carried submachine-guns. Although it was dark, the respondent said the uniform looked similar to the one pictured below.

Image 12 Officers in EKAM uniforms – looks similar to the way these men are dressed, but no insignia to suggest they were EKAM officers.

The respondent identified the gun as being similar as presented below. 

Image 13 Heckler & Koch MP5

The six men in civilian clothes spoke Arabic and Kurdish, the respondent could not recall what dialect it was. They told the group to not make any sounds and to stay in a group of eight people. The men in civilian clothes instructed the group that once they are in Turkey they should run.  At the location, the group of POM was searched again, and they were asked if they had money. The women were also searched but there were no female officers present.

The respondent described the violence they experienced at this location. The group was hit with tree branches for no reason. One man with a black uniform and balaclava was kicking everyone. The man kept on pointing the gun at the pushback group. 

The respondent then told us that they started calling us in groups to get on the boat 1.5 hour after the group arrived at the pushback location the respondent was brought to the river. The respondent was in the last group that was called to the river. At the river, he saw that one of the men in a blue uniform was wearing goggles. This man was holding a green screen that he pointed towards the Turkish side of the border.

At the river, there was a rubber boat of around 2 to 3 meters. The inside of the boat was white and the outside was gray with a white stripe. There were eight to nine people on the boat who were pushed back. The boat was driven (paddled) by two men wearing civilian clothes. “On the boat they told us “don’t come back to Greece or you will die trying”. When they arrived in the middle of the river the pushback group had to jump in the river. At first, the water came to the respondent’s chest but closer to Turkey the river was deeper and the group had to swim.  

It was around 11 pm when the respondent crossed the river and started looking for his friends. Together, they started running away from the border. After two hours they arrived in Adasarhanli, a Turkish town along the Meric river, and followed road signs to Edirne. Eventually, in the town of Meric they took a taxi to Edirne that was later paid for by their friends.