“When we asked for asylum, they sent the officers wearing masks to beat us”

  • Date and time: February 16, 2021 00:00
  • Location: Lavara/Karayusuflu
  • Coordinates: 41.266556926879, 26.419164666565
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 50 person(s), age: 2-53 , from: Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Kurdish
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 2 green-clothed military officers; 2 civilian clothed officers, big car with ‘police’ written on the side; a big civil traffic car; at least 15 more officers incl. female officers in blue Greek police uniform; another 6 officers in green-camoflauge uniforms
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 45 year old Moroccan man, was apprehended with a 34 year old Algerian man after walking for 3 days through Greece. The apprehension took place just before Xanthi in a small village in the early morning. Two officers caught the respondent and his friend, before calling two other officers to come. The first two officers were wearing green – described as “military” – uniforms and the other two were wearing civilian clothes. Two vehicles were involved in the apprehension – the first one was a big car and had ‘police’ written on the side and the second one was a big civil van.

The officers were identified as only speaking Greek and English. They reportedly took nearly everything the respondent and his friend had on them – phone, money and the rest of their belongings. “My friend had 120 euros. They took the 100 euros and gave him back the other 20” explained the respondent. According to him, they were also victims of physical violence: “They did beat us hard”, “with a metal stick”.

The respondent and his friend were transferred from the civil car to another and driven for about an hour to a detention centre, most likely in Alexandroupoli. They were met by at least 15 officers in blue Greek police uniforms, but the respondent explained there were so many he struggled to count. There were several female officers amongst the total.

The respondent explained that they were detained for “days” in the detention centre. He described the centre as surrounded by a fence and with a yard in the middle of it. This is where they were reportedly forced to undress and then sorted into a cell.

Inside the respondent’s cell, there were already 20 people when he was brought there and then another 20 were brought to the same cell, totaling approximately over 40. There were three women in the cell with their children, the youngest child being about 2 years old. Nationalities included Syrian, Afghan, Sudanese, Algerian, Moroccan and Kurdish. The oldest person was about 53 years old.

All of the detainees had allegedly had their money stolen from them, and they were repeatedly denied food and water during detention. They were also denied medical help, even though, according to the respondent, one of the detainees was injured and in need of medical attention.

“We were screaming. We had 3 days of walking, and we were thirsty and hungry and they didn’t care” explained the respondent. They asked for asylum but “they don’t talk, they ignore us. We were yelling of hunger and water, they didn’t care”. When they asked for asylum, “they sent the officers wearing masks to beat us”. These officers were wearing green trousers and black jackets. The detainees were also not given a translator to allow them to understand what was being said for those that did not speak Greek or English.

In total, the respondent spent 4 days in the cell, with others who had been there for 7 or 8.

After that time, they were put into the back of a big truck and driven to river Evros. There were 50 people in the back of the truck the respondent was in. It took an hour until they arrived at the river. There, they were met by 6 more officers dressed in green camouflage – described as “military” – uniforms who only spoke Greek and English. 

A small 2 metre-long boat was waiting on the river side when they arrived. “You can’t talk, you can’t make a move, even when you get in the boat you have to cover your head to not be hit with a baton over your head”, recalled the respondent. They were taken across in groups of 15 people to an island that was in the middle of the river. “We had to cross another river after being stuck in the island to get to Turkey”, explained the respondent. 

The first city they got to after crossing the river was Meriç. It took them 2 hours of walking. The pushback is thus likely to have occurred just outside of Lavara.