““they push us and they forced the door, it was hard for them to close the door because it was so many people inside””

  • Date and time: February 5, 2021 00:00
  • Location: Kastoria, Greece
  • Coordinates: 40.570904948602, 21.044796991088
  • Pushback from: Albania
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 60 person(s), age: 31 , from: Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other)
  • Police involved: Albanian police, police with different European flags on their uniforms
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, fingerprints taken, photos taken, denial of access to toilets
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent is a 31-year-old Algerian man. This is the fourth BVMN report that describes a pushback from Durrës in Albania to Greece on the 5th of February 2021.

The respondent reported that, since 2018, he has been pushed back several times from multiple European states, including Greece, Romania and Hungary. After being pushed back from Hungary to Serbia several times in 2019 and 2020, in November 2020 he made his way back to Kosovo and from there to Albania shortly before Christmas.

In Albania, he travelled to the port town of Durrës in the northwest of the country. He stayed there in what he described as a ‘hotel’ for a little over a month. The respondent recalled that this hotel was yellow and referred to the owner as ‘legraa’ (Algerian Arabic for “bald”). The respondent paid 250 Lek (approx. 2€) per night per person to stay there. This hotel has been mentioned in multiple other reports recently.

According to the respondent, on the 5th February at approximately 8 AM, 20 officers, referred to by the respondent as Albanian police, and an additional 3-5 plain-clothed officers, arrived at the hotel with what the respondent described as 6 dark blue Toyota police vans. They reportedly entered the building and proceeded to apprehend around 50 people on the move that stayed at the hotel. The respondent recalled that for each van, four men had to enter the back, while five more people were put in the trunk:

“They push us and they forced the door, it was hard for them to close the door because it was so many people inside.”

Everyone apprehended at the hotel was brought in a short drive of fewer than 10 minutes to a police station in the port of the city where they were made to sit on the grass in front of the building.

The respondent reports that, in the following hours, 10 more people that the police apprehended on the street were brought to them, bringing the group size to a total of 60, all of whom were reportedly either Moroccans or Algerians.

The respondent claims that all of the people present were fingerprinted. After two men tried to run away, the police reportedly randomly selected 20 people and tied two persons each together with handcuffs.

When others started to complain about their detention and the pushback they predicted would occur, the respondent states that officers with motorcycles came and beat a few of them with batons.

During their stay at this police station, an organisation that the respondent believed to be an NGO came and distributed small food bags and water bottles. The packaging of these items is described as carrying the flag of the European Union.

After nine hours at this police station, at 5 PM the respondent states that the group was made to enter a grey bus that took them to a camp close to the Greek-Albanian border. According to the respondent, the location of this camp was here. The description of the camp corresponds with other recently collected BVMN reports mentioning the same camp.

The drive lasted six hours. Inside the bus, there were only two police officers and it was reportedly escorted by four Albanian police vans. According to the respondent, all detainees from the police station in Durrës were gathered at the camp and made to wait for half an hour. They were then handed over to nine other officers.

The respondent reported that these officers had flags of different European countries on their uniforms, which made him assume that they were Frontex officers. Four of them wore balaclavas.

The detainees were then transported from the camp in groups of 6-7, with two jeeps on a small forest road, approximately 10 km into Greek territory. They drove half an hour and were then left by the alleged Frontex officers on a mountain, from where he could already see the nearby town of Kastoria. The respondent also recalled that it was snowing:

“When the people ask the police to let them sleep one night inside this camp they didn’t let them and they throw them in the mountains and it was snowing.”

Back in Greece, the respondent slept the first night in a church. Walking to Kastoria the next day he encountered what he described as “undercover” Greek police in a van. These officers brought him to a point approximately 15km from Neapoli and showed him the road to follow back to the city. There, he stayed another night in an abandoned house and then took a bus back to Thessaloniki.

At no time during the pushback did the respondent ask for asylum.