The respondent is a 28-year-old woman from Morocco. She described the pushback she and her husband, 30 years old and from Morocco, endured from Greece to Turkey. They had initially crossed the border from Turkey to Greece, before walking for about a day and night before they were apprehended by officers. This apprehension took place on the 18th of January after walking about 10km, near Lavara, at about 2 pm in the afternoon.
They were apprehended together with another three Moroccan men, and one Algerian man. There were four officers who caught them, with another four arriving shortly after. The officers were wearing either completely black clothes with balaclavas or Greek military uniforms without balaclavas.
The respondent explained that they did not understand what the officers were speaking as they were speaking in Greek or English. “We didn’t understand what they were saying. Even if you try to talk to them, they don’t care to listen and we were so scared to look at their faces” the respondent remarked.
When they were caught, the officers beat the respondent and the others in the transit group with batons.
They were not able to ask for asylum as they were not allowed to speak. After they were apprehended, they were taken to what the respondents describe as military barracks by car. The journey took about 20 minutes, approximately 10km in distance. The driving was described as reckless and the respondent remarked she did not see anything along the journey.
The “military barracks,” consisted of isoboxes/containers surrounded by a fence. The respondent explained that this barrack was surrounded by trees and forest, but they could see a village in the distance when it got dark due to its lights. The barracks had already 24 people when the respondent and her companions arrived, taking the total up to approximately 30 people. The ages ranged from 17 to 50 years old, including minors and women. The nationalities included Moroccan, Syrian, Afghan, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Palestinians. The room they were put in “was the size of the refrigeration of trucks to store animal meat” described the respondent. There were toilets in other containers, but not the respondents. Even when they asked to use the other containers’ toilets, they were not allowed to.
In detention, the respondent was searched by a female officer. The transit group was denied access to food and water. “They already took everything from you,” remarked the respondent, referring to the food they had had with them. “When I asked for food, he [officer] told me give me 4 euro i will give you sandwich” explained the respondent – after the officers had taken their money from them. The respondent explained that her husband had told the officers that he had high blood pressure, but he was denied healthcare and she explained the officers did not care and simply ignored him.
They spent about 6 hours in detention, before being taken to the Evros River once the sun had set. They were taken in trucks to the river, and as they got into the trucks they were beaten with a baton. The trucks were big and army camo coloured. 14 to 15 people were put into the truck with the respondent and his wife. The other people in the barracks were taken in a separate truck.
They were driven down a non-paved road, fast and recklessly, described the respondent. The people that drove them were not military or wearing military uniforms.
The journey took about an hour and a half until they arrived. They arrived on a small path by the river, surrounded by a small forest, and a small hill was behind them. When they arrived, there were three other officers wearing balaclavas and completely black uniforms. None of these officers spoke to them. “They wasn’t military and they just keep hit you with the baton” explained the respondent.
There was a boat ready in the water when they got out of the truck. However, the respondent recalled that the officers on the scene kept changing the place of where they would cross from to not let the Turkish army figure out they were pushing people back.
The boat was about 6-7 metres big, and white in colour. The officers in balaclavas put the respondent and others from the transit group in the boat. They were taken across and just after halfway across the Evros/Meric River, the officers ordered them to jump in and cross the rest in the water. The respondent explained that they came soon to a village on the Turkish side, near Ipsala.