The respondent, an Afghan national, arrived in Thessaloniki (GRK) two months and a half before he was illegally removed on April 23, 2020. He was living in Diavata camp. He was issued a “khartia” (temporary regularisation document) on 12th February 2020, which was valid for one month (until March 13, 2020). He was unable to submit an asylum application, considering that all asylum applications were suspended by the Greek government in March, and the Asylum Service was closed due to restrictions imposed during the Corona pandemic.
The respondent declared that on 23rd April 2020, around 12:00, the Greek police came to the camp and informed people that they would be issued a “khartia” or they could receive a new “khartia”, if the period of legal stay in the country had expired. The respondent agreed to accompany the policemen and be issued a new document. He describes that around 15 to 20 policemen were in the camp the day in question and rounded up multiple persons. The respondent recalls that he was coming out of the shower at the time and the police surprised him. He states that they picked up all the others from their tents and that everyone was forced to comply and go with the police.
Once he accepted to enter the van, he was repeatedly hit by the police. He recalls being taken to a police station in Thessaloniki and on the way another person was picked up by the van at the train station in Thessaloniki. In the police station, he and others were body searched, their phones and money confiscated. The respondent stated that among the persons in the group, there were asylum seekers in possession of an applicant card, which the policemen destroyed by tearing the document.
Afterwards, they were taken outside the station where a bus was waiting for them. The newly arrived policemen searched them once again, and then proceeded to load everyone in the bus. They took their jackets, leaving them in light clothing.
At night, they had already reached the border and they were being ferried to Turkey. There were around 22 persons pushed back, among them Afghan nationals, Pakistan nationals, and from Northern African countries. Among the Afghan nationals, there were 2 boys, one 18 years old, and the second, a minor of 16 years old. During the bus ride, one of the detainees asked to have a bathroom break but the policeman refused. When the person in question insisted, the policeman got up from his seat and hit the person in question as well as the others.
The Greek authorities placed the group in a boat and ferried them across the river. The respondent recalls it was around 20:00 or 21:00 of the same day he was taken from the camp. He recalls that the “captain” of the boat was working with the police and that he spoke various languages like Pashtoo, Arabic, and Farsi.