“ Go back to Greece”

  • Date and time: March 4, 2021 23:30
  • Location: near Bilisht, Albania
  • Coordinates: 40.613934716659, 21.046876713734
  • Pushback from: Albania
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 2 person(s), age: 33 years old , from: Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground
  • Police involved: Albanian male police officers, various numbers, 2 officers wearing dark colour uniform, 1 Albanian police car, 1 white Albanian van, 1 black landrover
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: fingerprints taken, photos taken
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Wave - Thessaloniki

Original Report

The respondent is a 33-year-old man from Algeria. 

He recounts various attempts to cross the Greek border over the past months. At the beginning of February, he departed from Greece with the intention of crossing into Albania, but was intercepted by Greek police before reaching the border and was transported 20km back away from the border. According to the respondent, this was made in order to hinder a second attempt.

20 days later the respondent continued his journey and on March 4 he successfully crossed the border together with two other men, one Algerian and one Moroccan, who he met on the route. In the following days, they walked about 50 km into Albania through the mountains, moving mainly during the night and resting during the day, avoiding major roads with more police presence.

After two days, the respondent’s group was apprehended in the town of Korçë, one of the most populated cities in the southeast of the country. 

At 22:00 two Albanian police officers with blue uniforms approached them in a white police patrol car. The group was exhausted from their journey and thus did not attempt to flee.

“(I) was so tired that when the car comes to (me, I don’t) try to run away from them.”

The officers asked for their names, however, they did not request any documents. The group was then driven for 10 minutes to the police station in the same city.

At the police station, the respondent waited in a cell without receiving any further information. Half an hour later a white police van arrived to pick them up.

“The van was white and there is a sign of police, a blue sign of police on it…they didn’t put us in the chair, they put us in the trunk with other things.”

The respondent along with the other 2 people was put in the trunk of the van with their belongings. The respondent recalled that the trunk was full of things so he could not move. 

After approximately one hour’s drive, they arrived at what he describes as a camp. From the description given one can assume that this refers to a camp, which has been mentioned in multiple testimonies recently, located 1km away from the Border Crossing Kapshticë – Krystallopigi. According to other testimonies, this camp has become a quasi-official site that is used as an intermediate station between apprehension and execution of the actual pushback.

The respondent indicated the camp to be here.

The respondent states that there were 7 other people at the camp, when he arrived.

At the camp fingerprints and photos were taken. He was informed that he would spend the night in a room at the camp and the next morning he would be handed over to the Greek police. Spending a night in the camp is commonly the protocol after a night apprehension, the interviewee stated.

However, half an hour later two officers approached the respondent and another male with whom he was traveling. The officers ordered them to leave the room immediately.

The officers only addressed him and one of his travel companions. Both had already been arrested on previous occasions, which the respondent supposed to be the reason why they had to leave the camp immediately. The other members of the group stayed in the camp. It was his first time being fingerprinted and photographed in Albania.

The respondent stated that he tried to talk to the officers to spend the night in the camp due to the accumulated tiredness and the low temperatures that night.

“Why? I am so cold, it’s warm here. I just want to go to sleep…It was snowing, and there was water inside (my) boots, and was so cold that’s why (I) asked to stay that night.”

The respondent recalled that one of the police officers aggressively entered the room and turned off the light, grabbed the respondent and threw him out of the room. Once they were out of the room he was beaten with a baton.

“They (officers) came and start to beat (me), they said: you can not stay here because it is an order from my boss and you have to go.”

The officer who attacked them was wearing an Albanian police uniform and was executing orders from a second plain-clothed officer.

Two officers then made the respondent along with his companion enter the same van as before and drove for half an hour. The officers were wearing a dark blue uniform without any logo on it.

The van stopped at the first village they passed. There they met another car. A plain-clothed person handed food to the officers driving the van. 

The food was delivered to the two people-on-the-move (POM) and according to the respondent it looked like the camp meals.

The drive took approximately half an hour and they passed through two villages in total, still in Albania. The van arrived at a place where a landrover with two other police officers were waiting for them.

The officers in the landrover were wearing a black uniform with the police logo and a flag from Albania.

The respondent and others from the transit group were transferred to the back seat of the vehicle and were driven for 10 minutes.

“In the landrover the officer didn’t’ talk too much…then they opened them and told them go on this way to Greece.”

Once in Greece the respondent and his friend found shelter in a place that he described as the ruins of an ancient building. A few hours later, in the morning, they were apprehended there by the Greek police. 

Following the officers instructions, they walked approximately 20 km to the Greek town of Kastoria, from where the respondent continued his way back to Thessaloniki.

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