“ Detained for 18 hours and pushed back via the Evros river: “I thought we were going to die because we were hungry and so thirsty””

  • Date and time: May 10, 2022 22:00
  • Location: Palea Sagini GR to Karakasim TR
  • Coordinates: 41.4760492, 26.5546194
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 100 person(s), age: 15 - 60 , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Somalia
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, sexual assault, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 3 men wearing sage green shirts and pants with Greek and English writing on it and a Greek flag on the sleeve; 2 men in bullet proof uniforms consisting of marine blue shirts and pants with “Police” writing; 2 men wearing bullet proof plain black uniforms; 2 men wearing black shirts, camouflage pants and balaclavas; men in marine blue uniforms with “police” writing on the chest and a Greek flag on the sleeve (identified as Greek Border Guard uniform); 8 men in civilian sport wear and camouflage short-sleeve jackets without any signs or insignias; 4 men wearing camouflage green uniforms with a Greek flag and wearing “military hats”; 2 men in civilian sport clothing; 1 white Skoda car with a blue stripe on its side, a red and blue siren on top and “police” writing on the side; 1 green unmarked landrover car; 1 black unmarked Ford pick-up car; 3 white Mercedes vans; 2 white Ford transit vans; inflatable, camouflage green rubber boat with a Greek flag and engine
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, photos taken, no translator present, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 29-year-old Moroccan man, recounted a violent pushback from Palea Sagini (GR) to Karakasim (TR) on May 10th 2022. He stated that he has been subjected to 3 pushbacks, including this one.

The respondent reported that on May 9, 2022, he walked with a group of 4 men from Morocco, aged between 25 and 44 years, from Edirne to the area close to the Turkish village of Bosna. The respondent described that the transit group left Edirne at 8pm and continued walking for 2 hours and hid in a corn field close to the border fence at the Greek-Turkish border. While hiding, the respondent saw that every 15 minutes cars were passing by. Because it was dark, he could not identify the cars but stated that he saw red and blue coloured siren lights and flash lights.

The respondent stated that after hiding for one hour, at around 11 pm, the transit group decided to cross the border. The responded described that they crossed two fences; one, as stated by the respondent, was an old fence with barbed wire on top and a new fence. The respondent described how the group crossed the second fence by using a rope ladder.

The respondent recounted that after crossing the border the transit group ran through an agricultural field until they arrived at a dry river bed after approximately 100 meters. Then, as stated by the respondent, the transit group continued their journey by walking through Greek territory, mainly through farmlands and agricultural fields for four hours.

At around 3 am on May 10, as recounted by the respondent, the transit group walked through fields when suddenly they were blinded by flashlights and that three cars surrounded them.  Two members of the transit group reportedly ran away towards a farm field while the respondent and one other Moroccan man stayed – “we couldn’t [run], we just froze. We didn’t move and they came out from the cars and aimed their guns at us”.

The respondent described the vehicles that surrounded him as (1) a white Skoda car with a blue stripe on its side, a red and blue siren on top and “police” writing on the side (recognized as similar to image 1), (2) a green landrover with big tires but without any writing, and a black Ford pick-up car, similar to image 2.

Image 1: Skoda Octavia Greek Police Car

Image 2: Unmarked Black Ford Pick-Up

The respondent stated that the cars were staffed with 7 men, 3 of them wearing sage green shirts and pants with Greek and English writing on it and a Greek flag on the sleeve. The respondent identified the sage green uniforms as being similar to the uniforms in image 3.

Image 3: Green-uniformed Greek border guards

The respondent described that two men wore marine blue coloured shirts and pants with written “Police” on them that he called a “bulletproof uniform.” The other two men, as recounted by the respondent, wore “bulletproof” plain black uniforms. The respondent stated that all the uniformed men carried black plastic batons.

The respondent recalled that the uniformed men dressed in black addressed the respondent and his travel companion in English. Reportedly, they were instructed to hand over their phones which were never returned. The respondent stated that this man questioned them about the other two people who managed to run away. At this time, the respondent reported that the uniformed men started hitting them with plastic batons on their heads and kicking them randomly all over their bodies. Reportedly, this assault lasted for approximately 10 minutes. 

The respondent noted:

“They only asked us where the other 2 persons were – they knew exactly how many we were. [They asked] from where we were but we couldn’t speak because if you speak when they didn’t allow you to speak you will get beaten more”.

The respondent recounted that after approximately 20 minutes after the group was apprehended, an old white Ford Transit van without licences plates arrived. The POM were loaded in the back of van. The respondent described the inside of the car as a 3 x 2 meter-sized trunk that was “rusty” and had some old tires in the back. The respondent identified the car as similar to image 54.

The respondent recalled two men wearing black shirts, camouflage pants and balaclavas came out of the van (one driver and a co-driver).These two men, as described by the respondent, did not address the POM but spoke to the other uniformed men.

Image 4: White Ford Van

The respondent recounted that they drove for around 25 minutes until they arrived at a detention site. The driving was described as fast and as dust entered the trunk the POM had a hard time breathing. The detention side was described by the respondent as a one-floor building with a flat roof and old blue-painted windows. Due to flashlights coming from the yard of the facility, the respondent was blinded and therefore could not see too many details. He described the property as being surrounded by a 2 – 3 meter high fence with barbed wire on top. The respondent recalled that the fence contained a  “big gate” with a Greek flag and two garbage containers next to it. The respondent noted the existence of metal “cages” on the property, described as squares surrounded by a metal braces from all sides. Inside the yard of the building the respondent saw two vehicles and a boat with a trailer parked. The cars were described as a white Mercedes van, similar to image 6, which did not have a license plate, and a black jeep, similar to image 7. None of the cars carried any writing or logo.

Image 5: White unmarked van 
Image 7: Unmarked black Jeep

The respondent recalled that in front of the detention site there was a paved road, on the other side this road there was another “house”. The landscape was described as dominated by forests and some unpaved roads close by.

Inside the detention site, the respondent recalled 13 – 15 men in uniforms, including the two people bringing the POM to the location. According to the respondent, about 4 or 5 of them wore plain black uniforms carrying plastic batons and small guns in the holster, and the remaining wearing marine blue uniforms with “police” writing on the chest and a Greek flag on the sleeve.

Inside the building, as reported by the respondent, the respondent’s friend had to gather their personal belongings and put them into the garbage, while he was being beaten with a metal baton by the uniformed men. Then, as stated by the respondent, both POM had to stand against a wall and two men in marine blue uniforms started punching and kicking them all over their bodies, asked them to empty their pockets and forced them to strip to their underwear. The respondent mentioned that the uniformed men gave orders in English and used some words in Greek like “malaka” to address the POM. Reportedly, the beating continued for about 5 minutes, then the men were searched while being in underwear for approximately 10 more minutes. The respondent recounts that they were continuously slapped and punched while they were undressed and their bodies searched.“They kept moving their hands everywhere and even touched the sensitive places of my body”.

The respondent reported that the uniformed men took the respondent’s jacket and backpack but returned the 30 € he carried. After the search, the POM were detained in a cell. The respondent described the cell as a 5 x 6-meter sized cell with an iron (bar) door with “dirty grounds, 4 bunkbeds, small windows on the side”. He continued and stated that there was a toilet inside the cell but “we couldn’t [use it]. There was shit all over the ground and it was not even a toilet, it’s a hole in the ground”.

The respondent described that there were two cameras in the hallway leading to the cell which were directed into the cell. The respondent stated that when the two POM arrived to the cell at around 3 am, 4 other Syrian men aged between 25 and 45 years were already inside the cell.

The respondent assumes they were detained for at least 18 hours and by the time they were taken from the cell, at “the end of the day”, reportedly 100 people were detained in the detention site.

The respondent recounted the following nationalities; Syrian, Afghan, Pakistani, Somali, Moroccan, and Algerian and their ages ranged from 15 to 60 years. According to the respondent, 9 of them were minors and 5 were women of Syrian and Somali nationalities. During the time of detention, as stated by the respondent, the POM were not offered any food or water and when one of the detainees asked for water, he was beaten by a man in marine blue uniform. The respondent stated that during the time in the detention site, no translators were present, neither were any documents checked nor had they signed any papers or had any fingerprints been taken. Furthermore, as stated by the respondent, the uniformed men took photographs of the POM while they were searched and in their underwear.

The respondent reported that around 2 hours after sunset, at approximately 8 – 9 pm (assumption by the respondent) of 10/05/2022 around 8 men wearing civilian sport wear and camouflage short-sleeve jackets without any signs or insignias and carrying metal batons, tree branches or plastic batons as weapons came to take the POM from the cell. The respondent stated that they spoke English and Arabic to the POM, asking them to quickly get out of the cell. The dialect they spoke in was Lebanese or Syrian, according to the respondent. The respondent described that while the POM got out of the cell and were loaded into three vans parked outside the building, they were hit on their backs in order to make them move faster. According to the respondent, everyone was beaten, including minors and children.

The respondent stated that there were two Mercedes vans, similar to image 6, and one Ford transit van, similar to image 5. These cars, as reported by the respondent, carried any writing or logo and they did not have license plates. Reportedly, the loading of all approximately 100 POM took about 30 minutes and the respondent was among the last people to be loaded into a vehicle. In the same trunk as the respondent he saw about 35 other people with him, at least two women and several minors. Then they started driving for around 15 minutes in a manner described as “fast, so fast” over first paved roads for 5 minutes, then unpaved roads until they arrived to a river. The respondent could see some glimpses of hills and lights outside before entering into a forest as the vehicle was so old that there were little holes in the trunk. There were no windows. The respondent stated that it was hard to breathe inside the trunk as it was very crowded by people.

The respondent stated that all three vans arrived to a site in a small forest with a small yard next to an unpaved road leading to the Evros river. Six men in sportswear (as described above) and wearing balaclavas came from the detention site to the river site with the POM.

At the river site, the respondent recalled five additional uniformed men were present. According to the respondent, one of them wore a plain black uniform while 4 were in camouflage green uniforms with a Greek flag and wearing “military hats”. These men carried, as stated by the respondent, “big weapons like AK[-47]”. The respondent assumed they were soldiers.

The respondent recalled that the POM were taken out of the trunks of the cars and the women were gathered in a separate group while the rest were beaten with tree branches, metal batons and punching and kicking for around 10 minutes including minors. On this occasion, as described by the respondent, the orders were given by the men in sportswear who also did the beating.

The respondent recounted that then all the POM, including the women, were searched again by male uniformed men. The respondent stated:

“He [the uniformed man] was nasty. He kept moving his hands all over her [the woman’s] body”.

The respondent stated that during this time his shoes and the 30 € he had left was taken After this, as reported, he only wore shirts and pants. He stated that they were continuously beaten and that he felt like he could be dying at any moment.

The respondent recalled that there was an inflatable, camouflage green rubber boat with a Greek flag already in the river. It measures 4 x 2 meters and was powered by an engine. The respondent stated that all the POM were pushed back via the river with this boat, taking 10 POM at a time plus two boat drivers. The respondent noted that the boat drivers were distinct from the other men involved in the pushback and wore civilian clothing without any camouflage elements and balaclavas. The respondent described that the POM were only taken a couple of meters across the river and then forced to jump into the river and swim the remaining distance to the Turkish side of the border river. The respondent noted that women and minors were subjected to the same treatment. The respondent recounted the water measured between hip level to chest level. The pushback, according to the respondent, was carried out at approximately 10 – 11 pm.

Once on Turkish territory, the respondent looked for his friend with whom he started in the initial transit group and whom he had been separated from during the pushback. Once reunited, the respondent described that they started to walk away from the border in their wet clothes and barefoot. After one hour, as reported by the respondent, they arrived at the village Karakasim from where they followed the road leading to Edirne. The respondent stated that they walked for 7 hours taking short breaks every 30 minutes –  “We were walking barefoot and I thought we were going to die because we were hungry and so thirsty”.

When being asked whether he expressed his intention to claim asylum in Greece the respondent answered: “No I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask or they would have killed me by beating”.