“go go you have to go from here”

  • Date and time: April 2, 2021 00:00
  • Location: near the city of Kurilë, Devoll District, Albania
  • Coordinates: 40.552444, 21.010194
  • Pushback from: Albania
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 6 person(s), age: 2,13,27,26, 28 unknown , from: Afghanistan, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, shouting
  • Police involved: 4 officers in “army uniform” and a holder, a security officer, 2 officers and 2 translators wearing civilian clothes, 2 police officers with Albanian Uniform, 2 officers with a mask with police sign, 2 greek police officers, male and female.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Wave - Thessaloniki

Original Report

This report contains two testimonies from the same pushback on the 2nd of April:

Testimony 1:

The respondent is a 28-year-old Tunisian man. He was pushed back from Albania to Greece on the 2nd of April 2021. One day before, on the 1st of April, the respondent and his friend, a 27-year-old Moroccan man were at the bus station in Korçë when a police car stopped in front of them. It was 10 a.m.

‘We was going to Tirana. We want to go by bus and drivers od busses they told us we cannot take you because we have risk from police, if we take you. We tried to take taxi and same answer. So we sit there at the station until the police come and take us.’

The respondent believed that someone that saw them must have called the police. The testimony of the Moroccan man can be found here. Four police officers in Albanian police uniforms approached the two men. After asking where they were from and where they wanted to go, the respondent quoted one of the officers saying: ‘You have to come with us to the police station until we see what we will do with you.’

The drive to the police station lasted for around 15 minutes. There, in the car park of the police station, the respondent saw a Land Rover with the Albanian and European Union flag on it. The vehicle had a polish plate number. He did not see any person inside or next to it.

‘I don’t know if they help them to protect the border, push people back.’

Inside the police station, one Albanian police officer confiscated their personal belongings and stated that they would be returned upon their release. The respondent and the Moroccan man had to wait in a ‘room for a detective,’ not in a cell. There, their personal information was collected. 

‘They just come to say to us, what’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? And they go.’

The respondent was told by the officers that they had to wait for around two hours. Eight hours later, the two men were still held custody at the police station without receiving food, water or being allowed to use the toilet.

‘No water, no food, no cigarettes. I told the police, hey, I want to go to the toilet. I want food. I am hungry. They said wait wait wait. I said I have money, bring me food, I will pay for it. We made so many noises. They say ok after 8 hours.’

The respondent did not ask for asylum at the police station.

‘Because I think they didn’t have.’

Then, at around 6 p.m., two police officers came and loaded the two men into a car. The officer wore black uniforms with the flag of Albania on them and ‘border police’ written on their backs. The car also had the flag of Albania, including the flag of the European Union on the backside. The vehicle had eight seats, but it was only the respondent and the Moroccan man who were brought to a camp near the border with Greece. The drive lasted for around half an hour. Their personal belongings were returned on arrival. The respondent located the camp close to the city Bilishit and just a few hundred metres away from the official border crossing with Greece (see image below).

The two men slept at the camp in a container for one night and the next morning, three officers from Poland, Italy and Germany entered the room, asked for their names and told them to come with them. First, the fingerprints of the respondent’s right hand were taken. Then, he was brought to an ‘office’ where he was interviewed by the three officers. He described that the officers were wearing light blue armbands with the European Logo on them. He asserted that the Italian officer spoke Arabic and the German office spoke Farsi, Pashto and Urdu. 

‘So they told me you have to tell me clear how you want to go to Tirana, Montenegro and tell me the road and the persons and pages of Facebook and number and all of these details. And I say I don’t know. I don’t know.’

‘I say, can I asked you for why reason you ask me this question. He say look behind you and I see Frontex on the wall.’

When the respondent asked what was going to happen to the people held in custody, one of the officers replied: ‘I don’t take the decision, but we help out Albanians to protect the border.’

Following this, the respondent’s fingerprints of his left hand and photographs of his face were taken by an Albanian border control officer. When he asked for the reason for this procedure, the Albanian officer told him: ‘I don’t know this. Go ask Frontex.’ Afterward, he was told to wait in ‘his room’ until a decision was made. While waiting in the container, the respondent began to film the officers outside. 

A Frontex officer speaks to an Afghani man as asserted by the respondent. A bunk bed can be seen on the right side.

The respondent saw many ‘big cars’ parked outside with different European number plates from Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. He described the brands of Range Rover, Nissan and Volvo. 

‘All of them 4 by 4.’

In the camp, the respondent saw around five Frontex officers. He claimed that the Albanian officers did not talk to him and were the ones driving him to the camp and later on to the Albanian-Greek border. The respondent saw around 50 POM in the camp. He explained that most people-on-the-move spend 3 to 4 days in the camp before a decision is made. 

‘They send you to Tirana or back to Greece.’

At 3 p.m., the respondent and the Moroccan man were driven to the border. The same car that drove them to the camp was used. With them was an Afghani family – wife, husband, a child and a baby. The baby was only a few months old. Two Albanian police officers were with them in the car. After driving for 15 minutes the car stopped in a village and the group had to enter a jeep. 

‘Because there are so many hard roads to go to the border, so they changed to a different car.’

The drive lasted for approximately another 10 minutes. The vehicle stopped at the end of a road. There, the officers told the group of six to get out of the car and go to Greece. 

The distance between the camp (next to the official border crossing Kristallopigi (GR) – Bilisht (AL)) and the approximate location of the pushback.

The respondent recounted how the family members began to cry. When the respondent took his bag and exited the car, along with the Moroccan man, he saw many people – women, men and families with small children and babies camping in the surrounding area. He estimated that around 150 POM from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were sleeping outside. After walking for approximately seven kilometres further into Greek territory, they were stopped by who the respondent believed to be ‘undercover police’ in civilian clothing. The two officers arrived in a windowless white van. The vehicle did not have a number plate. Shortly after, another car with a greek plate number arrived at the scene. The respondent quoted one officer saying: ‘We are police you have to come with us to another city, Neapoli. You have to give us your phones.’ The respondent and his friend entered the car and the respondent recalled how afraid he was that they would bring him to Turkey instead.

The drive lasted for around one and a half hours. The vehicle stopped one kilometre outside of Neapoli. The officers returned their phones and told them that they can take the bus to Thessaloniki tomorrow and left. This kind of procedure has already been observed in an earlier BVMN report to make sure that POM do not return to Albania. In Neapoli, the respondent and his friends were stopped by the police again. The officers asked where they wanted to go and after the respondent explained that they wanted to take the bus to Thessaloniki, one officer replied: ‘No, go by foot.’ The respondent then clarified that the police brought them to Neapoli to take the bus and eventually the officers told them to spend the night outside of the village and that they should return the next morning to take the bus. The next morning, on the 3rd of April, at around 7 a.m., the respondent and his friend returned to Neapoli. There, the same officers from the evening before guarded them until they entered the bus to go to Thessaloniki.

 

Testimony 2:

The respondent is a 27-years-old male from Morocco. He was pushed back from Albania to Greece on the 2nd of April 2021. 

The respondent entered Albania with his Tunisian friend on the 26th of March and reached Korçë after four days of walking.

They went to the bus station to buy a ticket to Tirana but the person in charge of selling the ticket wouldn’t let them. They were waiting two days in Korçë, sleeping in a “garage”. 

The respondent assumed that someone that might have seen them sleeping in this place and must have called the police.

Four officers came, asked them for their Greek documents. As they didn’t have it, the officers apprehended them and loaded them into the car. According to the respondent, they were wearing “army uniform”, and a holder. Their car was a 4×4 with a police sign on it. It also had a frontex flag and the Albanian flag on the back. 

They drove them at the police station. According to the respondent, the drive took around five minutes. The police station was located next to a mosque. The building was low, one floor only and had two entrance doors. 

The officers took their names and physical characteristics. They did not take their fingerprints. It took approximately one hour.

Later, a “security officer”took them and put them into a cell. They stayed there for six hours. Afterward, a vehicle arrived, the respondent described it as a “green range rover” with a European and a Polish flag. The respondent and his friend were told to enter the car and were then driven to a camp which was  “almost 14 kms” away from the police station. It was around 5:00 p.m. as asserted by the respondent.

In the camp, they had to share a room with Afghan and Iraqi families. They received food.

The next morning two officers described as “civilian” came with two translators. They questioned him and his friend separately, asking about who they are, what they are doing in Albania and asked information about how and with whom they crossed the borders until Albania. It lasted for 15 minutes. 

Then, their fingerprints and pictures were taken. A police officer described as “undercover” came and started collecting their data for ten minutes.

The respondent did not ask for asylum.

An officer with the same type of car that was used when they were apprehended came and they were loaded into it. The Afghan family, two adults, one 13-year-old girl and a baby, were in the car with them. The officer took the phone of the family and did not return it. They drove for about 10 kms.

A black landrover with the sign of the Albanian police on it was waiting for them. The respondent, his friend and the family were loaded to the car. The two officers driving the black land rover wore the Albanian police uniform. 

They drove in a “rude way” for about 15 minutes until they reached the border where they were told to cross into Greece by the officers.

“Go! Go! you have to go from here!”

The place was described as in the mountains, in the middle of a forest. Other People-on-the-move (POM) were present on the Albanian-Greek border. The officers would not let them cross the border to Albania. They prohibited a group of five POM to walk to the closest village to take some food by driving next to them and told them to go back to Greece.

The approximate location of the pushback was identified by the respondent’s friend (40.552444,21.010194).

The respondent and his friend walked 20 kms into  Greek territory when a big white van arrived. Inside were two officers wearing a covid mask with a police sign on it . The officers  confiscated their phones and ordered them to enter the van. They drove for around one hour, until they reached the Greek town called Neapoli. 

There, another two police officers, male and female, approached them and told them that they had to sleep outside of the city and that they could come back the next day to take a bus ticket to Thessaloniki. Thus, the day after they were back in Thessaloniki.