““They searched us and even touched our sensitive places in front of women””

  • Date and time: March 15, 2022 10:30
  • Location: Orestias (GR) to Karakasım (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.5014015, 26.5310803
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 5 - 55 , from: Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Somalia
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, sexual assault, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 3 men in uniforms resembling ΑΣΤΥΝΟΜΙΑ (Greek riot police), police uniform, 8 men in blue long-sleeved uniforms resembling Greek Border Guard uniform; 10 men in green uniforms resembling Greek border guard uniform, at least 7 men wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 48-year-old man from Syria was pushed back from Orestias  (GR) to Karakasım (TR) in a group of 8 people. He experienced four pushbacks from Greece to Turkey before, 3 of them happened last year and the most recent one was on 15.03.2022.

 

He had made a deal with a smuggler in Istanbul to take him from Istanbul to Edirne and then to Thessaloniki via a driver which was supposed to pick him, and a group of other people on the move (POM), up when they arrived at a specific point in the Greek territory.

 

His journey started on 14.03.2022 when he traveled with seven other people from Istanbul to Edirne in a van organized by the smuggler at around 05:00 am. When they arrived in Edirne around 09:00 am, the smuggler parked the van and asked the group to give him 50 euros each to buy a boat that they would use to cross the river at the borders. He also took 200 TL from each one to buy food for the journey to Greece.

 

After that, they were taken to a house belonging to the smuggler, who left again. The POM stayed there until the evening waiting for the smuggler and started to feel worried thinking that he might not come to take them, but eventually, he showed up around 08:00 pm of 14.03.2022 and asked the group, consisting of 6 men and 2 women from Syria and Afghanistan, to get in the van.

Then they drove for 40 minutes and arrived close to the border at a small river, still on Turkish territory, which was on an agricultural field with a few trees and an unpaved road. On the other side of the river on Greek territory was a forest and there was an islet in the middle of the river.

It took them 30 minutes to prepare the rubber boat, measuring 3 x 2 meters. All POM made it across the river, in addition to a path guide who was hired by the smuggler. The boat was steered by the guide and another young man of the group. After arriving at Greek territory, the guide hid the rubber boat in the bushes in order to not be found by any Greek soldiers or officers.

Subsequently, the group walked for 9 hours through agricultural fields, covering around 17 km. They took only 5-minute-long breaks.

As the sun was about to rise the next morning on 15.03.2022 at around 07:00 am and there was a town in front of them, they decided to hide in a small forest close to the town and wait for the sun to set in order to continue walking unseen.

Every time the POM asked the guide where they would be picked up by the car that will take them to Thessaloniki, he responded that “[they] haven’t arrived at the location yet”. While they hid in the forest waiting for the night, they had food and drinks because they didn’t eat anything when they were walking.

 

Around 11:00 am they heard footsteps close to them. Suddenly, 5 men showed up and surrounded them from all sides, pointing their guns towards them. Two of them wore a deep blue uniform with the Greek flag on their left arm and some writing in Greek language next to a logo and “Police” writing (see image 1).  3 of them wore olive green uniforms with writing on the right side of the chest over the shirt pocket and a Greek flag and black boots which the respondent identified as resembling Greek border guard uniforms (see image 2). They carried guns identified as Beretta M9 (see image 3) and said “don’t move” and then asked them to pick up their stuff and walk with them outside the forest.

Image 1 Long sleeve Greek Border Guard uniform

Image 2 ΑΣΤΥΝΟΜΙΑ police (Riot police)

 

Image 3 Beretta M9

After that, they walked for 5 minutes and some group members were hit with a plastic baton to walk quickly until they arrived at a paved road where the men in uniforms had parked their cars. There were 2 vehicles, a Nissan white with a blue stripe and “Police” writing and a police logo (see image 4), and a black pick-up without any writing, similar to image 5.

 

Image 4 Nissan Qashqai Greek Police Car

 

Image 5 Unmarked Black Ford Pick-Up

The men in uniform didn’t check the people’s documents but took photos of them, as a group and individually by using a black phone with the EU flag on the back.

They took POM’s personal phones, then asked them “where are you from? And where do you want to go?” which the group answered truthfully: “We are Syrians and Afghans and we want to go to Thessaloniki camp”. This intention to ask for asylum in Greece was not considered, “they ignored everyone and they didn’t care”.

Civilians were passing on the road in their cars and some of them slowed down to see what was happening. The respondent recounts: “Someone was smiling like he was happy that we were caught. After 15 minutes an old white van with a trunk measuring 3 x 1.5  meters arrived. The respondent mentioned that the vehicle looks like the one in image 6 but white color.

Image 6 Red Mercedes Sprinter Van

The group was loaded into the trunk of the unmarked white and they drove fast for 15 minutes to a detention seite, located in a forest. The van stopped in the front yard of the detention building. The site was described as “old white building surrounded by a 3-meter barbed fence with the Greek flag”. There were 2 big vans of white and red color, similar to the one in image 7, and one white Nissan car with a blue stripe and “police” writing (same in image 4).

Close to the building were residential houses and 3 caravans close to the fence which is surrounding the detention center. In the area around the detention site, some civilians were passing by on a paved road close by.

Image 7 White unmarked van

In the detention site approximately 10 men wearing a sage green uniform, jackets, and pants were present. They had a logo on their uniform on the left arm and some writing in yellow color on their shoulders above the logo. The respondent recognized these uniforms as resembling Greek border guard uniform (see image 8).

 

 

Image 8 Green-uniformed Greek border guards

The uniformed men made the group members stand in line in the yard and put their bags in one place. Then 2 men wearing gloves ordered the males to take off their pants, jackets, and shirts in the yard. The respondent said, “They searched us and even touched our sensitive places in front of women”.

The women were told to take off their jackets and were left with shirts, pants, and sneakers, then they were searched by a male officer. They uniformed men took the bags, jackets, shoelaces, and belts from the people and didn’t give them back their personal belongings except the money that they had found.

Around 12:00 pm the group were put into a cell of approximately 4 x 5 meters which had dirty grounds and smelled nasty because of the dirty toilet inside it. Also, there were 4 metal bunk beds without mattresses and a steel metal door.

Inside of the cell, 13 additional Afghan people were detained inside, their ages ranged from 24 to 35 years old and were all male. The group was detained for 9 hours and they didn’t get any food or water, also no one checked their documents or took their fingerprints, or took photos of them. During that time, the men in uniforms brought more people to the cell.

At the end of the day, the number of detainees rose to around 80 people of different nationalities, including Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, and Moroccans. The youngest one was a 5-year old child from Iraq and the oldest one was a 55 years-old Iraqi man. In total, 7 women were detained of whom one got her clothes torn apart while a male officer searched her.

It was around 09:00 pm on 15.03.2022 when 13 men came to take the people from the detention site. 7 men were wearing civilian clothes, balaclavas and 4 were wearing dark blue uniforms, recognized as Greek border guard uniforms and same as in image 1. They loaded the people in 2 different vans, the same as in Image 7, with approximately 40 people in each car.

The respondent noted that it was hard to breathe with all of these people in one car.

They drove very fast for 10 minutes until they arrived at the push back site at a river where more men were present. Some of them wore a deep blue uniform resembling Greek border guard uniform (image 1) while others wore civilian clothes. They had tree branches and metal batons as weapons. The men dressed in civilian clothing spoke Turkish, Kurdish, and Arabic with Syrian and Iraqi dialects.

The POM were ordered to keep walking in a line and to not make any sound and were searched again. The perpetrators took all the money they found and all personal belongings of the POM.

The respondent recounts:

“There was a girl who spoke Kurdish. She had a necklace and when he [the man] was searching her, he took it from her neck and she was begging him to return it because it was all she had. He slapped her twice and told her to shut up”.

They kept kicking and hitting the people, including minors and women, with the tree branches. The respondent said they used any chance they had to scare them before starting to push them back. In the river, there was a black rubber boat with the Greek flag on its side and white from inside. They were taking 8 people along with two drivers each time, then came back to take another 8 people. The respondent waited for 30 minutes to be taken on the boat as he was in the last group. The POM were not taken all the way across the river, but ordered to jump into the water in the middle of the river. They also did this to minors and women. The respondent said that the water level was up to his chest. The pushback happened between 10 and 11 pm on 15.03.2022.

Once they arrived at the Turkish side, the POM found themselves within agricultural fields with some canes at the river and some trees. The respondent recounts: “It was dark and I really didn’t know where I was. I was looking for anyone from my group but I didn’t find any. A guy told me to run fast from the borders before the Jandarma catched us and takes us to detention”

He walked for one hour to get to the village Karakasım, then he walked for 6 hours around 23 kilometers to get to Edirne.