The respondent is a 26-year-old male from Morocco. He stated that before this pushback, he had experienced four other pushbacks in total – three from Greece and one from Bulgaria. This pushback was from Nea Vyssa, Greece to Turkey.
At 6pm on 05/04/2022 he left with one friend, a 27-year-old male also from Morocco, from Edirne to Karaağaç. They walked for 3 hours to get close to the border fence, a 5 metre high fence with barbed wire on top. They waited another 30 minutes before crossing the border at 9:30pm.
After crossing the border they immediately ran across some farmland for almost 2 kilometres until they arrived at a paved road. They crossed over this road and continued walking, stopping only from time to to rest for five minutes and smoke.
They arrived near Valtos and by this time it was light. They hid between a dry river and a tree. They chose to hide because it is an open area surrounded by farmlands with a paved road nearby and a crossroad up ahead where they could see many cars passing. While checking the road, his friend suddenly told him that a civilian car had slowed down but then continued driving. The respondent described the car as a grey Volkswagen Golf.
The respondent stated that soon after, they briefly fell asleep and then at 09:00am were awoken by being assaulted by men in uniforms, five in total. They fell asleep for just 10 minutes. Then they were woken up because someone was kicking them and another man grabbed the respondent’s friend’s foot and kept pulling him. These men kept kicking the respondent and hitting them with a plastic baton.
He stated that they were beaten at random points on their bodies for 10 minutes.
After they were beaten, these men forced them to walk to where they were parked on the road for 3 minutes. These men then started asking the respondent and his travelling companion. These men questioned the respondent – “where are you from?”, “how did you cross?”, “where did you cross?”, “are there any others?”.
The respondent stated that they were spoken to in English and the only languages they heard these men use were Greek and English.
“They kicked us and beat us, then asked us to give our phone and when he asked me from where I am. I told him I am Syrian. Then, he kicked me on my shoulder”.
When asked why the uniformed man assumed he had lied or if it had been explained to him, the respondent stated:
“No they do that for purpose or no purpose, they will keep kicking you. […] I only said when they were kicking us, ‘No staying in Greece asylum camp and go to Europe.’ […] He ignored me and keep kicking me.” The respondent added that while he was being beaten, he stated that he wished to claim asylum, but “they kept kicking us”.
The respondent stated that none of their documents were checked at this point. When asked if anything was taken from them, but at this point they only had their phones taken from them.
The respondent described the uniforms – three were wearing sage green uniforms, with “police” written in yellow on it and there was a logo on the arm and police written above it. Two were wearing deep blue uniforms. Police was written in the front and on the back in greek.
The respondent stated that he could identify the uniform if shown a picture of it and confirmed that it matched those in Image 1 and Image 2 below.
The respondent stated that each of the men was carrying a weapon. One of the men wearing the blue uniform held a handgun, one of the green-uniformed men held a rifle. The others, he stated, had their guns in their holsters. He said that he did not really know much about gun types but was confident that he could identify the guns if shown options. He stated that they matched with those in the images below.
The vehicles that these men had travelled in were two cars. One was white with a blue stripe on the side, and had “police” on the side of it. The other was a green olive coloured land cruiser – this had no writing on the vehicle. He described them as a “jeep” and a “toyota”, but could not be sure. He further identified these cars as similar to the images below:
The respondent stated that they stayed at that point for 30 minutes. Then a white van, unmarked van came, which they were loaded into (Image 7). He stated that he could not see the number plate of the vehicle. He said “Any brand Splinter or old Mercedes van.”
He could not see how many officers were in the vehicle. They were driven fast for 15 minutes and could barely see outside. They were driven on paved roads, and they were able to see out of a small hole on the side of the truck. This van took the respondent and his travelling companion to a place of detention.
After 15 minutes, the van stopped. They were unloaded from the truck and saw they were by a building. This building had old walls, a small yard in front of the door to the entrance of the building, where if you entered the building you would reach a corridor that takes you to the cells. The respondent remarked it was like an abandoned old building, one storey tall. The van left the detention site after they were removed from the van.
Outside the building, there was one other big white Mercedes van parked in front and nearby were some caravans and local’s houses, but not many. The respondent did not see any official signs of Greek police or military on the building. There was only a Greek flag on the fence that surrounded the building. The respondent described there being seven men in uniforms present at this location.
These uniforms included: sage green uniforms and jackets and trousers, black boots. It was the same as the Greek border guard’s uniforms (pictured in Image 8). All of them were wearing the same uniforms. There was “police” written in yellow on the left side of the chest of the uniforms, with the same logo on each uniform, coupled with a yellow stripe on the shoulders.
Two men came to conduct a search of the respondent and his friend. “If we don’t understand what they are saying, they immediately slapped us” explained the respondent. This took place in the yard by the building, before they took them to the cells inside the building. They were forced to undress here too – trousers, shirts and jackets were removed. They were frisked and body-searched for about 10 minutes. The men returned these items of clothing, but their backpacks and shoes were taken from them and not returned.
At 11am, they were taken into the building and inside the building, to a cell, which was approximately 5 by 3 metres. It was a small room, there were metal bars on one side, and a metal door locked from outside. The cell was dirty, the floor was covered with what the respondent explained was “mud”. There were four bunk beds inside this cell with no mattresses or covers. There was an old wall with names written on it. The cell smelled very bad and there was a dirty toilet inside.
At this point, there were only 20 people inside this cell, including the respondent and his friend. But, more were brought throughout their detention very frequently. In total they were detained for nine hours, without food or water. Eventually there were 70 people detained in the cell. He stated that they were of Syrian, Sudanese, Moroccan, Algerian, and Afghan nationalities and aged between five and fifty-five. There were three women in total. There were more than 8 minors under the age of 17 years old.
He was not required to sign anything, there was no translator present, and no fingerprints or photos were taken. After nine hours, they came and took them from the cell and took everyone to the river. These people who took them out of their cell were four men wearing green camouflage jackets, civilian trousers, and white and black trainers. He stated that all four of them were wearing balaclavas and were armed with wooden batons. Their clothing did not have any writing or other details to indicate who they were.
As people were forced to leave the cell, they were hit on their backs by these men. He stated that he was positioned among the last people leaving. The women and minors were also beaten, everyone was.
When they reached outside to the yard, there were about 15 men. They were wearing different uniforms to the ones previously mentioned – two were wearing deep blue uniforms and trousers, with “police” written in white on their left chest, and a Greek flag on the arm. 10 of the men were wearing balaclavas holding sticks and in civilian clothes, black coats or green coats, and jean trousers or sports trousers. All the others were wearing sage green jackets and trousers, and one of them was wearing a balaclava. The uniforms were identified as the same as Image 9 and Image 10, pictured below.
“They kept beating us as they loaded us into the vans”. They were beaten for three seconds to get the group to move fast. Here, again, the minors and women were beaten too.
The respondent described being loaded into the trunk of the same van that had brought them to the detention site, stating that “there were no licence plates on the back.” In total, there were 35 people loaded into the trunk of the van. Inside the van, it was difficult to breathe. The door of the trunk was locked and there were no lights. “The women were freaking out”. One of the women in the group was in shock as this was her first time she had experienced a push back. The respondent explained that he did not know how many people were put in each vehicle, but the entire group was loaded into vehicles and removed from the detention site.
The drive lasted for 15 minutes along unpaved roads and they could not see outside. The driving was fast and horrible. “We couldn’t stand still”. The respondent was convinced the driver was driving like this on purpose, “When he run fast they drift suddenly, then we hit each other’s heads”.
The respondent described the place where they all arrived after the drive, and from where they would be pushed back. It was a forest and there was a small yard near to the Evros/Meriç river. There were five other people – three in uniforms, and two in civilian clothes at this site. The three in uniforms were: two in green camouflage uniforms, similar to the Greek military (Image 11), and one in black uniform with nothing written on it, no insignia and wearing a balaclava (Image 12). The two in civilian clothes were wearing balaclavas.
The respondent explained that there were a total number of eleven or more people, including the driver, involved in the pushback – uniformed or in civilian clothing – at the river.
These men were armed as well. The men in green camouflage uniforms were holding “big guns”, and the ones in black uniforms were wearing what was described as night vision goggles. Those in civilian clothes were holding sticks. The respondent recognised the weapons as described as above, to be similar to the images below:
The ones in green camouflage uniforms spoke in Greek, and some of the ones in civilian clothes spoke in Arabic, the Syrian dialect. This suggests the involvement of third-country nationals, which has become incredibly common during pushbacks from Greece.
The group had to step into a line, and then from here, they were loaded into groups into a boat that was on the river. Anyone from the group of people on the move that was hiding money or a phone, had the risk to have it taken from them. They had to give it before searching to not get beaten. Everyone had to remain silent. The group had to give what they had and keep silent and stay in line to be searched one by one, and then they were loaded into the boat.
They were then searched again. The remaining money that he had with him, 50 euro, was taken from him. The women were also searched.
By this time he was wearing his sweater, a shirt and pants. He was positioned in the last group of people. The respondent explained that he was hit with a stick over his shoulder, and was kicked and hit with a stick over his head.
“Many [were beaten] they kept kicking them and beating them just for no reason to scare us and some they undressed them totally”.
The respondent stated that the boat used in the pushback was already there at the river. It was green camouflage in colour and white from inside. It was 2 x 3 metres in size, and rubber.
The respondent stated that a group of nine people was taken to the boat, plus two Arabic speakers in civilian clothing and balaclavas, who would drive the boat across. By the time he was taken to get on the boat, two hours had passed since they arrived at the pushback location.
The drivers of the boat used paddles to move across the river. The boat was described as unstable and weighed much more than the boat could accommodate because of the volume of people in the boat. The boat did not always take people all the way across the river. “Some of us also were forced to jump even from the Greek shores”, remarked the respondent.
All of the group was pushed back, all 70 people. Once they had all reached Turkish territory, the men on the Greek side, who conducted the pushback, shone their flashlights onto the Turkish territory. This was at about 11 pm. The respondent explained that after seeing them doing this, flashing the light, he knew that Turkish soldiers would come there and the group became afraid of getting caught. So, he explained, the group started to run in their wet clothes. “It was cold and we were hungry and thirsty. We could barely walk and we were barefoot” explained the respondent.
Shortly after this, the respondent described arriving at the main road from where they saw a light and later arrived by a hotel. From there, “we walked to Edirne for one hours until we arrived at the bridge. We tried to reach the hostel but the door was closed. Then we slept under the bridge until the morning.”
Finally, the respondent was asked if he had ever expressed his intention to claim asylum. He responded, “I did while they were beating us.” When asked what the response was, he stated, “They kept kicking us.”