“The respondent could not take the beating anymore and tried to get up, but another officer shot a second can of tear gas at him, this time on his face”

Injuries sustained by the respondent during the violent pushback
  • Date and time: July 13, 2021 11:00
  • Location: Tychero/Balabancik
  • Coordinates: 41.027698, 26.2935333
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 7 person(s), age: 24-30 years old , from: Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, water immersion, sexual assault, threatening with guns, gunshots, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, tear gas from close proximity
  • Police involved: 4 officers in black uniforms and balaclavas, 6 officers in black jackets, camouflage pants and balaclavas with three unmarked white vans, 18 officers wearing black uniforms with a Greek flag on their left arm and a yellow logo on their left chest, two officers with blue armbands on their shoulders,6 officers in green camouflage uniforms with a Greek flag and a logo on their arms, 1 sage green military truck
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of food/water, personal belongings taken
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent is a 29 year old man from Morocco. On the 3rd of July around 10pm, he crossed the Evros/Meriç river. He was swimming and pulling a boat with six other people, three Moroccons and three Algerians, among them one woman. It was his fifth attempt to make it to Greece after four previous pushbacks. 

The group of seven proceeded walking for several days. On the seventh day, three cars apprehended the group. There were two black cars and one white vehicle, one of them was driven by a woman. Some officers with black uniforms and balaclavas got out of the car and ran after the group who tried to escape. The officers fired shots that hit the ground around the group. They hid in a small river nearby and crossed the stream and thus managed to escape.

The respondent and the other six proceeded on their way inland, always walking at night and sleeping during the day in a mountainous area. Approximately 15km before Komotini in a forest, shortly before sunrise, the group was sleeping when they were woken up by kicking and beatings. Six officers had arrived with three white unmarked vans. The officers were wearing black jackets and green camouflage pants as well as balaclavas and black boots. 

The respondent describes that the officers were shouting “police” and then fired tear gas on the group. One of the cans hit the respondent on his chest and he felt like he was suffocating both from the impact and the gas itself.

The group was ordered to lie down on the ground and the officers fixed their arms behind their backs with zip ties. 

One of the officers, a tall, broad man with a walkie talkie on his shoulder, asked the respondent where he was from. The respondent said “Libya” as he believed they would treat him better than if he told the truth, but the officer started beating him with a baton while shouting “Moroccan!”.  At some point, the respondent could not take the beating anymore and tried to get up, but the other officer shot another can of tear gas at him, this time on his face.

The officers then searched the group and took all their belongings from them (phones, watches, money, bags with all their supplies). A male officer also searched the woman. She was crying while he was touching her body, harassing her. 

After around 30min on the ground, the group was loaded into one of the vans. The vehicle drove for around one and a half hours on an unpaved road. 

At approximately 9 am, the car arrived at a detention site. It was surrounded by a fence and, according to the respondent, looked like “a garage covered with metal, similar to an old farm, with a red roof”. There were no other buildings close by.

There were at least 20 officers present at the detention site, all wearing black uniforms, most of them with a Greek flag on their left arm and a yellow logo on their left chest. The respondent also described that two officers however were not carrying the Greek flag on their black uniforms but had blue armbands on their shoulders, describing the uniforms of Frontex officers deployed in the region.

“They told me ‘you are a terrorist’ and hit me every now and then. I told them I do not want to stay in Greece, I want to go to Europe, and they beat me more.”

The officers were speaking English to each other. The respondent recalled in particular that one of the officers kept saying “this man is crazy”.

When shown a picture of the Frontex armbands after he gave the description, the respondent was certain it was the same. 

The Frontex officers also beat the respondent and other group members, as did the Greek officers, with batons as well as wooden sticks. They also stepped on their faces while humiliating and searching them. 

The officers removed the zip ties and ordered the group to undress. A female officer searched the woman.

After around one hour of beatings, humiliations, and frisks, the officers handed back the t-shirts and shorts before taking the group into a small cell, approximately 3 by 2m in size. The respondent describes the room as dirty and nasty with a toilet not much more than a hole in the ground in the corner as well as two bunk beds. There were other cells next to this one but the respondent does not know if there were other people or not. 

The group was kept in this detention site for two days. Throughout this time, no other people were taken into their cell. For two days, they never received any food, water or medical care. 

At around 11am on the 13th of July, six officers in green camouflage uniforms with a Greek flag and a logo on their arms, without balaclavas, entered the detention site and ordered the group to get out and into a sage green military truck.  

The respondent identified these uniforms as the Hellenic Army Uniform

The officers slapped the group members to make them move faster. After a short drive of around 15min, the vehicle stopped at a spot near the Evros/Meric River where a road is very close to the river. There were no trees around. 

There was no boat present. The officers instead used their assault rifles to threaten the group and ordered them to cross the river by wading through the water. The water level reached up to the respondent’s neck. 

The woman, who was much shorter than him and could not stand anymore, kept holding on to him as the current was strong, which is why he was moving slowly. In order to make him speed up, the Greek officers fired some shots into the water around the respondent which apparently alerted Turkish border guards who responded with fire. The respondent describes that fire was exchanged between the two sides close to the group crossing. 

Once they reached the Turkish shore, the group encountered 10 Turkish soldiers in camouflage uniform who told them which direction to walk to. They walked for around 2km and reached a road where they encountered a man with a car who took them to Ipsala. The drive lasted around 30min. 

Based on the description of both the pushback point and the detention site, it is highly likely that the group was kept in detention at the Tychero border guard station and pushed back close from Tychero to Balabancik.