On Apr 11, 2022 76 people on the move (POM) were pushed back from Dilofos, Greece to Kapikule, Turkey. The respondent is a 22-year-old Moroccan male and this is the seventh pushback he has experienced.
On April 5th at 7pm he and two other Moroccan males, ages 21 and 30, walked for two hours from Edirne, Turkey to Bosna, Turkey to reach the border fence between Turkey and Greece. They arrived at the border at 9pm, but hid from cars patrolling the area before crossing the border at 9:30pm. The first border fence was 5 meters high with barbed wire on top, followed by a second 8 meter fence. The POM used a rope ladder to climb the fences and they all were able to cross.
Immediately after crossing the border into Greece the POM ran across the farmland adjacent to the fences until they reached a paved road 1 kilometer away. They crossed the road and continued walking in the dark. At one point they passed an abandoned church and crossed over railroad tracks. For five days they walked continuously through the day and night, only taking small cigarette breaks and sleeping for a couple hours at a time far away from any villages.
On April 11th at 7 am the POM were outside the city of Komotini, Greece and wanted to buy some things to continue their journey. Knowing that their clothes were dirty and they didn’t want officers or people to know they were immigrants, they walked around the outskirts of the city looking for a store until an old man saw them and started yelling at them in Greek.
They started running into the city looking for a place to hide, but after 5 minutes a white Skoda car with a blue stripe and police written on the side and a logo (Image 1) pulled in front of the POM and forced them to stop. In this car were two men wearing deep blue uniforms with police written in front and Greek writing on back (Image 2). A white Nissan car with a blue stripe and police and a logo (Image 3) pulled up behind them three minutes later carrying four men in olive green uniforms with police written in yellow and a logo on the arm (Image 4).
After the second car arrived the two men in dark blue and one in olive green aimed their guns (Image 5, above) at the POM and asked them to step away from the road. Immediately after that two men started beating them with plastic batons and kicking them even though there were citizens walking around and some even stopped to ask what was wrong with them. For 30 minutes the men hit the POM then took a break to make a phone call and have cigarettes. In English the men in blue asked them where they were from, how old they were, how long they had been walking and where they wanted to go. The respondent was the last to answer and when he did the men in blue held his ear, laughed at him, repeated “you want to go to France” and slapped him. He asked the men to please let them go and they would leave Greek territory to which the men kept repeating “yes, yes’ and talked and laughed with his friend in Greek and said “malaka”. At no point did the men check their documents and the POM did not express the desire to claim asylum.
30 minutes after being apprehended a white unmarked Mercedes van with license plate GR and letters and numbers after it (Image 6) came to load the POM into. Two men in black and yellow civilian jackets with blue jeans and white sneakers came with the van. According to the respondent one of the men looked to be Syrian, but he only heard the men speaking Greek and they did not speak to the POM. The three POM were loaded into the back of the van where they were locked in and not able to see outside. For two hours they were driven very fast on paved roads until they arrived at a detention site at 10am. After unloading the POM, the van left the site.
The detention site had old walls, a small yard in the front and a hallway to go to the cells. The area was surrounded by a fence and the building looked abandoned on the first floor. There were a few other caravans and citizen houses nearby. A Greek flag was on the fence in front of the detention building. There were 9 men in sage green uniforms with black boots and police written in yellow on the left side of the chest with a logo and yellow stripe on the shoulder (Image 7, above).
Three men took the POM to be searched. First they made them leave their backpacks in a pile with many other backpacks. Then they had to stand by a wall in the yard from where they could see a citizen’s house 100 meters across the road. They were asked to take off all of their clothes and were frisked by the men for 15 minutes. The men did not return their backpacks, shoes, jackets, phones or money.
After being searched at 11am they were taken inside to a 5×3 meter cell where 65 other POM, ages 10 to 50, from Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, were also detained. There were 5 women and 10 boys under 17 in this group. The ground of the cell was dirty with mud and there were 4 bunk beds without mattresses or covers. On the old walls names were written and the cell smelled from the dirty toilet inside of it. In the hallway there were two cameras and an office at the end of the hall. After less than an hour men brought a group of Syrian and 3 more Algerian men into detention making for 76 people detained at the site.
For 10 hours everyone waited at the detention site. They were not offered food or water and there was no translator present. After 10 hours two men wearing balaclavas and green civilian jackets and pants came to open the cell door. They spoke in Syrian Arabic and said “families stay together”. One of these men had a branch which he used to hit everyone on the back with as they were coming out from the cell and told them to run fast. The men did not beat the women, but they did hit the minors. The respondent and his friends tried to stay together since this was the first time one of his friends had had this experience.
Outside the cell there were 9 men – 3 in deep blue uniforms with police written in white on their chest and Greek flag on the arm (Image 8), 4 men wearing balaclavas holding branches and wearing civilian sports pants and jackets one which was Adidas brand, 2 men wearing black unmarked uniforms with balaclavas (Image 9). There were two unmarked white Mercedes vans without license plates on the back (Image 10) and one black Toyota pickup truck with camper (Image 11) into which they loaded all 76 POM from the detention site.
The respondent and his friends were placed in a van with 32 other people. It was very crowded and they tried to give space to women and kids. Everyone kept colliding with each other as the men drove fast and recklessly for 10 minutes on an unpaved road with many pitfalls. The vans arrived at a big forest on the side of the river around 9pm. They could see light from the Turkish territory and could see trucks parked on the Turkish side. Once the respondent saw light from the mosque across the river he knew they were near Edirne because he had been pushed back before. He was happy because he would not have to walk long to reach Edirne.
At the pushback site there were 6 more men who joined the 7 who arrived with the vans and truck – three in green camouflage uniforms similar to the Greek military (Image 12) all carrying big guns (Image 13), and three wearing civilian clothes with balaclavas holding branches. The men in camouflage were speaking Greek and some of the men in civilian clothes were speaking Syrian Arabic. Two of the men in black uniforms were controlling the line and two of the men in civilian clothes were searching everyone. They told everyone to give them what they were hiding and ordered everyone to stay in line and keep silent. They searched everyone one by one and hit them over the head and shoulder with a branch. Since they had taken everything except a shirt and pants from the respondent in detention, there was nothing left to take.
Two 3×1 meter blue rubber inflatable boats with white insides were ready at the water. 9 POM plus two drivers wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas were put in the boats and paddled to the Turkish side. The respondent was in the middle of the line so he waited 30 minutes before he was loaded into a boat at 10pm on April 11. The boat was unstable from too much weight and water came inside of it. They were taken to the middle of the river and crossed the rest of the way to the Turkish side through the water.
On the Turkish side there was a small forest and the POM went through a small fence to reach the road. There was a truck parked and the driver started chasing them so they ran down the road to not be caught by the Turkish police. On the main road the respondent knew that they were in Kapikule, Turkey, because he had been pushed back there before and knew they could walk back to Erdine.