On 31st May 2020 the respondent (a Moroccan national) went in a group of 7 people and tried to cross from Greece into Albania. At 23:00, the transit group went to buy something to eat in the Albanian town of Miras, just 2 km from the Greek border. But before they arrived they were caught by the police officers.
According to the respondent, those who stopped the group were equipped with night vision goggles. The respondent said that when the group were captured, the treatment was very “racist”. The authorities kept them waiting on the ground while laughing among each other, which “makes them feel without dignity”. The respondent claims that the Albanian police treated them well, that those who made them feel badly treated were Frontex officers.
The respondent was shown a photo of the European Agency’s uniform, which includes distinctive blue armbands with the logo. The respondent confirmed these accessories were worn by the officers, stating: “exactly”. Among others, the transit group alleged they were handled by German officers and Hungarian officers* (Frontex officer wear their national uniforms while on missions).
“They don’t treat you humanly at all.”
Of the seven who were captured, some tried to flee. However, these people were beaten by officers, with the use of a “kind of truncheon but like metal”. Six or seven policemen, whom they described as “big, strong, and not ashamed to hit you”, used physical violence against them: “they are heartless”.
The transit group claim that the policemen wore balaclavas. They say that while they were being taken to the car, they were being kicked from behind. At this point in the episode, the officers even pulled out their guns and shot twice in the air. According to the interviewee, in total there were approximately 15 or 16 police officers, although according to him it is difficult to specify the exact number because “there were many of them”. They were in three camouflaged cars, “at no time do you think they are police cars”: a Renault Picanto, a Ford Maradona (where they were taken) and another vehicle similar to the Dazia.
At around 01:00 on the evening of 1st June 2020, the transit group were taken to the police station in Bilisht, Albania. The road was a mountain road, the three cars were with them. The group were denied food, despite stating that they were hungry. At the police station they met Frontex officers again.
The group were fingerprinted fingerprinted and had pictures taken of all four profiles. In turn, they were carefully searched, even their pants were taken off. Before taking their data, they were told that they would be taken to a camp in Tirana, the capital. The translator was wearing a blue vest. But once they got all their personal information the group were taken to a kind of cell in a basement. They claim that the place where they were put “not even the dogs could be there”. They had been told that the camp was closed and that they could not enter, but the respondent assures them that he has some friends in the camp in Tirana and that this is not true that such a closure had taken place.
According to the respondent the officers asked them why they wanted to come to Europe. They replied that their dream was to come to Europe, to which the officers replied again saying that “no, they should go away because they have nothing to do in Europe”. The transit group say that at the police station they met with UNICEF staff, though nothing was done to assist in their case:
“those with the blue logo and the hand. Human rights organizations and human rights are just rumors”.
At 07:00 in the morning of the 1st June 2020, the transit group were taken out of the police station in Bilisht. Two Albanian and two Frontex police officers took them to the border area. At the border they took out their batons as a threat, but made sure that the Greek police couldn’t see this. The respondents didn’t know whether they were the same officers or different from those who had captured them because their eyes could only be seen through the balaclava.
The respondent closed the interview expressing his feeling of regret for the situation that Spain and Italy have gone through because of the Coronavirus, “I am sorry I could not help because they are wonderful people”.
*Note: It would appear that the alleged nationalities of the Frontex officers does not match the deployment of sending states in the Albanian mission. However this may be born out in confusion over the national flags of other sending states (Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia), or the fact that officers of other nationalities were communicating in German.