“The officers used batons and sticks from trees to strike them”

  • Date and time: April 18, 2020 00:00
  • Location: btw Soufli (GRK) and Meric (TUR)
  • Coordinates: 41.2053735774063, 26.319997467922697
  • Push-back from: Greece
  • Push-back to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 40 person(s), age: Respondent aged 21 years old , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), electric shock, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: Greek officers dressed in blue uniforms with a patrol car, large blue "police" bus, officers in green uniform and masks at the border
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring, Balkan Info Van

Original Report

The respondent – a 21 year old man from Morocco – was by the central train station in Thessaloniki along with two friends from Morocco on 17th April 2020. The group were approached by Greek police officers wearing blue uniforms and accompanied by patrol car. The officers stopped the men and asked them for their papers. Having none, the authorities informed the men they would be taken to detention where they would be issued a “khartia” (temporary regularisation document) and then released.

Location in central Thessaloniki where the respondent was apprehended.

The respondent said this apprehension happened at around 17:00/18:00, after the group had been at a food distribution run by outreach volunteers. The respondent usually attended this food drop every day by taking the bus from the suburb Diavata where he was staying in an improvised shelter in the grounds of the camp.

On the day in question, the police stated they could not return to the camp and were instead taken in a vehicle a short distance to what the respondent described as a “commissariat” building. The men were taken inside and had all their possessions removed by police officers. This included phones, overclothes, powerbanks and a combined total of around 300 euros.

The three men were not informed further about their detention or whether they would be issued a khartia. They were detained in this police station overnight in a cell. On 18th April 2020 the police removed the three, taking them in a vehicle to another station where they were held for around 30 minutes.

At this location around 40 people were detained (including the three originally caught in this incident). The respondent said that he spoke with some of them and they stated they’d been subject to similar processes of being taken of the street by police with the promise of khartia during the previous 24 hours. The respondent says the people were from Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He stated he was the youngest at 21, meanwhile the eldest was around 40 years old.

After half an hour at the station a large blue coach was brought (with “police” written on the side). All 40 were loaded into the bus and driven for around three hours. The respondent describes how they arrived to a location close to Soufli (GRK) and were unloaded and recieved by a new set of Greek authorities. The respondent says these officers were wearing green uniforms and face masks. The authorities were described as “cagoule” and were holding batons, tree branches, and some had tasers. The respondent says there were approximately 12 officers waiting at the border for them.

The group of 40 were walked to the river bank of the Evros. The officers used batons and sticks from trees to strike them as they walked. The respondent says that some officers used tasers on some of the Pakistani and Afghani people (targeting the exposed sections of the neck). The people were then transported in smaller groups across the river to Turkey using a small boat. The respondent said there were around ten in each turn, so the same boat went back and forward four times.

Red line, border area where pushback happened. Red pin, the town of Meric where the respondent first arrived to in Turkey.

On the Turkish side, the group found the Turkish army who took them to a village and gave them some food. The respondent states that they were brought a short distance, and the village was called Meric (opposite the Greek town of Soufli). The respondent alleges the pushback must have taken place somewhere along the nearby section of border river (marked in red on the map).