The respondent is a 35-years-old man from Algeria. He had been in the Albanian town of Durrës for three months and was living in a rented house there with a friend. BVMN has collected three more testimonies referring as well to pushback incidents from Durrës on the same day (1,2,3).
On the 5th February, at approximately 9:00 a.m., he was walking outside in the streets of Durrës, when three uniformed Albanian police officers approached with a dark blue police van. They stopped him and asked in English if he was Albanian. Once they realised he wasn’t, they made him enter the van which had a small cell in the back.
The respondent was driven for 10 minutes to a police station in the port of Durrës. Recently the port of Durrës occurred in several testimonies as a detention site where people are held before pushbacks are carried out from there.
There, he was made to sit in front of the main building on the grass with other men and some minors. The respondent estimated the number of people there to be almost 100. The respondent’s group was guarded by a large number of officers, many of whom were wearing civilian clothes. He claimed there were 50 officers.
The respondent recalled that some of the people were trying to escape or starting to hurt themselves, in some cases even stabbing themselves with knives to avoid being pushed back.
In order to suppress those actions, at 11:30 a.m. eight to ten motorbikes arrived at the scene, each carrying two Albanian officers. These officers were wearing dark blue uniforms with red stripes on their arms and legs.
They started to beat the detainees with extendable batons and remained at the place, and from time to time beat others seemingly at random.
During the respondent’s internment, five to six people, all with the same blue shirts, came to distribute food in bags that carried the logo of an organisation.
The respondent did not exactly remember the logo, yet he recalled that it had a cross on it.
At 3:00 p.m., the officers took all of the detainees in groups of four with a patrol car to the main port building where their fingerprints and a picture were taken. Here, the respondent asked the officers for asylum.
His request was denied with the words: “You’re not allowed to apply for asylum here.”
After that, a bus arrived and the police temporarily confiscated their phones and money. They told them that they would use violence if the detainees resisted entering the unmarked white bus.
In the bus, there were more than 50 people, guarded by two police officers, who separated the passengers from the driver. The bus was accompanied by two police vans with more officers in the front. In a drive of approximately five hours, they were brought to the border to a place that the respondent referred to as “it was just woods, out of nowhere”.
There they were handed over to other Albanian officers with dark blue police uniforms, who were waiting at this site. There were approximately 20 officers with four police vans. The respondent’s group was made to walk, escorted by these officers, for approximately one hour, into Greece.
Approximately one kilometre away from a Greek village in the border region, around midnight, after returning the confiscated phones and the money, the Albanian police left them. The respondent could not remember the name or exact location of this village. However, he stated that it was close to the town of Kastoria.
There, the respondent’s group split: some of the people directly returned to Albania, others continued their way to other Greek towns or cities. The respondent’s group, consisting now of eight people, found an abandoned stable and stayed there overnight.
In Neapoli, the respondent sold his phone and with this money bought tickets for a bus back to Thessaloniki.