“ A pushback of 80 people: “If you speak, you will get beaten”.”

  • Date and time: April 20, 2022 00:00
  • Location: Kastaneai GR to Yenikaden TR
  • Coordinates: 41.667709, 26.473289
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 16-45 years old , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Kurdistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, sexual assault, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 4 men in sage green uniforms; 2 in wearing deep blue uniforms with “police” written on the front & back, no balaclavas; black toyota pick up truck; white greek police skoda; beretta M9’s; heckler & koch MP5; mercedes unmarked white van; 2x men in civillian clothes, speaking Greek; 6x perpetrators: 4x sage green uniforms, incl. 1 woman; 2 in black uniforms, no balaclavas; 4x men in camouflage green jackets, short sleeve tshirts, sage green pants, all in balaclavas; 20 men: black uniforms, blue uniforms with ‘police’ written on his shoulder, sage green uniforms, civillian clothes with camouflage short sleeve jackets, sports trousers, balaclavas; 2x unmarked white van; 1x ford unmarked white van; 6x men: 2x sage green uniforms, 4x civilian clothes (arabic speakers); FN FAL guns; 1x rubber inflatable blue and white boat 3x1m in size.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of food/water, personal belongings taken, sexual assault, beating , kicking
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 36 year old Moroccan man, recounted a violent pushback from Kastaneai in Greece, close to Yenikaden, in Turkey on 20th April 2022. In total he has been subjected to four pushbacks, including this one, with one being from Bulgaria and three being from Greece.

The respondent crossed from Turkey, close to Bosna, on 18th April 2022, at about 11.10pm at night, jumping two fences to reach Greece. He was travelling in a group of four men, all from Morocco and aged between 32-37 years old.

As soon as they crossed, they started running immediately to get far from the order. They ran between farmlands, for almost 2 km.They crossed by a dry river and walked near to an unpaved road and church. After this they walked for another 2km until they found what was described as a “main road” that goes to Orestias. They crossed this road and kept walking until they arrived in a forest. They walked for 2 hours. They did not walk continuously throughout this time, they had breaks from time to time and rested, as well as sleeping for about 20 minutes when they had a chance, far from the villages they passed through.

After this, they walked for the whole night until about 5 am on 19th April – meaning they travelled for nearly 6 hours in total. At 5am they rested in a small forest near Rizia. They stayed there until 8pm.

They continued to walk by night, and crossed a river which was not deep and then they walked for another 10 hours before they were caught. This was about 8am on 20th April. The respondent and his whole group were apprehended. They were caught by 4 men wearing sage green uniforms and 2 were wearing deep blue uniforms with “police” written on the front and back. None of them were wearing balaclavas. The respondent identified the below uniforms as to be the same of those worn by the men who apprehended them. 

Image 1: Short sleeved Greek Police uniform
Image 2: Green-uniformed Greek border guards

These men arrived in vehicles. The men in blue uniforms arrived in a white skoda with a blue stripe on the side and police was written on the side, and the other men in green uniforms were in the black Toyota pickup truck. The Toyota had nothing written on it and had no insignia. The respondent identified the images as below to the same as these vehicles.

Image 3: Black Toyota Hilux Pick-Up
Image 4: Skoda Octavia Greek Police Car

These men were also armed. Then men in blue uniforms had handguns and the men in green uniforms had a large gun. The images below were identified as the weapons carried by these men:

Image 5: Beretta M9

 

Image 6: Heckler & Koch MP5

The group were crossing the paved road and the black Toyota was parked around 700 metres from them. The respondent remarked that they thought it was a civilian car, but then it started chasing them and they ran into a forest. But the car continued to chase them through the forest. At the same time the white Skoda was coming from the opposite end of the road, but it went through an unpaved road to stop them from the front. The group did not want to risk being hit by the car because the other car was left behind them, so they stopped. And then, men emerged from the white car and without saying a word one a man in a green uniform kicked the respondent on his chest immediately. Then, the men in blue uniforms approached the group, walking towards them aiming their guns at them. The group had their arms raised up in the air. Then men put the guns in their holsters and kicked the respondent twice on his calf with his boots and ordered him to kneel on the ground.

The men beat the whole group for about 10 minutes. They slapped him on the face and kicked his shoulders and calves. Then men spoke to them in English, asking “where are you from?”. They group responded explaining they were Moroccan, and when they said this the men in the green uniform punched everyone, moving from one person to the next. After the kicking and punching, they were asked for their phones and took them and did not return them.

They stayed at this location for about 20 minutes. After this time, an unmarked Mercedes white van came (Image 7) and they were loaded inside. 

Image 7: White unmarked van

Inside this van there were two new men. Wearing civilian clothes – a jacket, black trousers and white trainers. They were not wearing balaclavas. These men did not speak to the respondents, they just conversed to each other in Greek. They were then driven for 30 minutes in total, normal driving. The respondent could not see outside but he said that at some point there were some potholes they drove across. 

No one else was inside the van apart from the respondent and his group. After 30 minutes, at 9am, they arrived at a detention site. The detention site included a building – old walls and a small yard in front of it. The back of the building there was a hallway that you enter into from the back door and this takes you to the cells within the building. Surrounding this building there was a 2 metre high fence. This building looked very old and was only one floor. The white walls on the outside were flaking because it was so old. There were no vehicles parked in front of the building.

Nearby to the detention site there were caravans and citizens houses in front of it. They were not semi-detached, they were positioned far from each other and surrounded by forest. There were no signs or any insignia on the building to suggest it was property of the Greek police or military. There was only a Greek flag on the gate of the detention. There were 5 men and 1 woman at the detention site. The van they were brought in, including the men that drove the van, left immediately after unloading them from the vehicle. These 6 new “officers” at the detention site were in uniform – 4 were in sage green uniforms, including the one woman, and 2 were in black uniforms, which did not have any insignia or anything written on their uniforms, without balaclavas too. The uniforms were identified to be the same as the images identified below.

Image 8: Backs of jackets of Greek Border Guard
Image 9: men in unidentified black uniforms

After they were unloaded, 2 of the men and a woman approached them to search for them. They were all forced to stand near a wall in the yard of the detention site and ordered to take down their trousers. They were ordered to remove their jackets and the group was searched all over, “they even touch our sensitive place” – including by the female officer, as well as searching their socks. When they were forced to pull down their trousers, they were left only wearing underwear, and then they told them to pull them back off. The group was forced to take off their shoes and they were thoroughly checked to see if they were hiding anything. This took 20 minutes.

The “officers” also took the groups’ bags, belts, and shoelaces. None of these items were returned either. After this, they were all loaded into a cell. The cell was about 5 x 6 m in size and had a dirty ground covered in mud. There were four mattresses with no covers. The walls inside the cell were grey. There were names of people who were detained before, written using the side of a coin to scratch the markings. There was a foul smell from the dirty toilet that was in this cell too.

When they were detained, there were already 7 people there. All were Syrian men, aged 25-30 years old. This was at about 10 am on 20th April 2022. However, more were brought to the cell by the end of the day – the respondent estimated a total of 80 were in this cell by the end of the day. Within this 80, there were 2 women (of which the respondent assumed were Syrian), and 5 minors. The age range of the group was approximately between 16 and 45 years old, and the nationalities of the people were: Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Pakistani and Afghan. They were detained for about 8 or 9 hours in total.

Throughout their ordeal they were not given any food or water, they were not forced to sign anything, there was no translator present during their detention, and they did not have their photos or fingerprints taken.

After their detention, they were removed from the cells and taken to the Evros/Meriç river to be pushed back. Four new perpetrators appeared to remove the now 80-person group from the cell. These people were wearing camouflage green jackets, short sleeve shirts and sage green pants – all wearing balaclavas. The respondent did not recall anything written or any details on the uniforms to show if they were police or military.

The aforementioned men and one woman in other uniforms were also still present (Image 8 and Image 9), plus these four new people in uniforms. He does not remember seeing these four holding weapons but they were holding tree branches. Everyone who was coming out from the cell was hit on the back with these tree branches to “make it fast” in order to be loaded into the vehicles.

Everyone coming out from the cell was hit on the back (in order to make them move faster) and loaded in vans, which were newly parted outside. The respondent explained that he was in the middle of the line. The women and minors of the group were not spared from being beaten. The women were slapped or hit by a branch, depending on the officer they were abused by.

Outside the building, there were approximately 20 new men in uniforms. There were men in black uniforms (Image 9), blue uniforms with “police” written on their shoulders (Image 10), sage green uniforms (Image 8), and civilian clothes with camouflage short sleeve jackets and sports trousers and balaclavas. The respondent was not able to identify how many officers were in each uniform because he did not have time to look around as they were being loaded into the back of vans.

Image 10 –Long sleeve Greek Border Guard uniform

The vans they were loaded into were identified as “white”, and could have been “Ford or Mercedes”. Apparently, there were no license plates on the back of these vehicles. All of these vans were unmarked. The respondent identified the white vans to either be Image 11 or Image 12 (pictured below) – two of image 11 and one of image 12.

Image 11: White unmarked van
Image 12: White Ford Van

There were 30 people loaded inside of this van with the respondent. The respondent remarked, “the van wasn’t as crowded as the other I been caught”. The driving was really fast and the driver would suddenly pull the handbrake and they would hit the side of the van. In total this drive lasted for 15 minutes. The people inside the van could not see outside. The road they drove on was unpaved the whole way until the vehicle stopped, the respondent remarked he could feel the potholes in the road as they drove.

The vehicle stopped, and they had arrived in a “big forest on the side of the river”. The ‘river’ that is referred to is the Evros/Meriç river. They arrived at about 8/9pm at night. There were no buildings nearby. The group was unloaded from the vehicle with the perpetrators hitting everyone with tree branches as they got out.

Everyone from the detention site, so a total of 80 people, were taken in the other two vans to the same pushback spot. At this site, there were 6 more perpetrators – 2 were wearing green camouflage uniforms, with a Greek flag on their left arm, similar to the Greek military (Image 13), and 4 were wearing civilian clothes with balaclavas. In total there were 12 people in uniforms at the pushback site, including the new 6 as well as 6 that drove the 3 vans. These 6 men were dressed in: sage green uniforms (two of them – see Image 8), and civilian clothes (four of them).

Image 13: Hellenic Army Uniform

The people in uniforms, pictured above in Image 13, were holding “big guns”, and the people in civilian clothes were holding “branches”. The respondent identified the “big guns” as similar to those pictured in Image 14.

Image 14: FN FAL 

The people in green camouflage uniforms were speaking in Greek and some of the 4 in civilian clothes were speaking Syrian Arabic. 2 of the civilian-clothed people were driving the boat, while the other 2 searched the group. 

The perpetrators told (speaking in Arabic, Syrian dialect) the group to give what they were hiding before searching them. Everyone was forced to sit down to wait for their turn to be searched – searching lasted about 3 minutes each. The group were ordered to stay in a line and not to make any sounds to be heard by Turkey soldiers on the other side. The respondent had his shoes and money that he hid from detention. Women were searched by male perpetrators. The respondent was wearing only his shirt and trousers, which was the same for the rest of the group. The whole group had everything taken from them. The children were searched also and the respondent saw them throwing their stuff with other belongings – with him assuming it was phones and money.

They had to “give all what we are hiding before they searched us and found it [anything that was hidden]. They told us not make any sounds to not be heard by Turkish soldiers maybe when they push us back”

He was hit with a branch. “Every time they got the chance to hit you or kick you”. Some people from the group were hit, and some were not.

The respondent was positioned in one of the last groups to cross the river in a boat that crossed the river. This boat was already on the river when they arrived. The boat was a rubber inflatable, blue and white in colour, and 3 x 1 m in size, as described by the respondent. Each crossing with the boat included 8 people, accompanied by 2 of the Syrian-speaking men in civilian clothes and balaclavas. These men spoke to people in Arabic, telling people “walk on this way not to drown”.

The respondent explained that he waited for 2 hours at the riverside, before being loaded into the boat. The boat was steered with paddles across the river. The respondent remarked that the boat was unstable, “the weight was much more than the boat can accommodate and even the water get inside it”. 

In the middle of the river, there was a “small sad island that contain few trees”. Everyone from the group was ferried across in the boat. He believes he crossed after 10pm at night on 20th April. Part of the group were dropped on this little islet but some were taken across the river and dropped in the middle and made to cross through the water. The people on the island could walk in the river to get to Turkish territory, the water level was not too high – between chest and waist. Women and minors were able to cross to the Turkish territory 

After the group arrived in Turkey, they tried to walk and get away fast from there as the group noticed a fire that had been made by the soldiers. They were afraid of being caught and for the jandarma to be called. They kept walking for almost 30 minutes until they arrived at the main road. They ended up being in front of a gas station and a hotel. 

“We couldn’t walk anymore. Our feet start to hurt and with the cold water I felt a big pain on my feet and barely could walk. One of our friend was hiding 20 euros, we stopped a taxi and he took us to Edirne for 20 euros. He wanted more but we told him that thats all we had on us”.

The respondent explained he did not claim asylum as the perpetrators did not ask them if they wanted to claim asylum. “If you speak, you will get beaten”.