The respondent is a 22 year old Tunisian man who recounted a pushback that happened from Greece to Turkey on the 2nd May. He was travelling with a friend, a 22 year old Tunisian man.
On the 25th of May, they crossed the Greek – Turkish border by Bosna. Once in Greece, they walked for six days and on 2nd May they were on the road leading to Komotiní, when two officers apprehended them, around 2 PM. One of the officers was wearing a pale blue shirt with navy blue trousers as a uniform with the Greek flag on it; the other officer was wearing a sage green uniform with some inscriptions on his shoulder showing his military grade, but no flag. They were driving a white and blue Kia car with “Police” written on it.
The officers ordered the respondent and his friend to kneel on the ground and to hand over their phones and bags before tying their hands in zip ties. These officers asked them where they crossed the border. The respondent said that the officers talked to them in English and communicated in Greek to each other. “The officers were drinking. They showed us that they had a bottle of Jack Daniels and they laughed at us,” recounted the respondent.
The officers made the respondent and his friend wait for about one hour while kneeling, forcing them to keep their eyes to the ground. “If we raised our heads, they started to scream at us.” Then a blue traffic van came. It was driven by one officer wearing a blue uniform and a cap.
The two men were taken in the trunk of the car, just the respondent and his friend, and driven for about 15 to 20 minutes on a paved road. “The driver was too dangerous, reckless and fast. He didn’t care about us being in the trunk and that we could have an accident. He treated us like animals,” remarked the respondent.
The two men were brought to a detention site surrounded by a fence overcome by barbed wire, with a big entrance door and “nothing to show that it was an official detention site.” The site was located right next to a road. The respondent recalled that half of the detention site was covered with a roof made of brick and some sheets of metal and the other half was not.
The respondent and his friend were taken to a cell where there were already about 80 people (mainly men, and one woman) coming from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, their ages ranging between 3 and 45. There were three minors ages 3, 14, and 15.
The cell, which was about 10 by 7 metres had a cement floor and was at the back of the detention site, right next to a “main road” where the respondent could see the people walking. The respondent identified the detention site as Soufli Police and Border Guard Station. “There were people with us who knew about the detention from a previous pushback, so they told me it was in Soufli.”
Inside the police station, there were about 10 to 15 officers, wearing blue uniforms with “Police” written on it. They took all their belongings (phones, bags, supplies, power banks) and clothes that were in their bags.
“They treated us like animals, they humiliated us. They had batons, they beat everybody and shouted at everybody. They hit me and my friends with tree branches and they kicked us.”
The respondent was detained for 7 or 8 hours. During this time, the officers brought more people into the cell, as at the end there were around 150 people, including the previously mentioned 80 people. They were a mixture of nationalities, the same as previous nationalities mentioned. The respondent had not eaten or drunk for two days, and neither had everybody else in the cell, and they were denied food by the officers. The officers barely provided water.
“One officer brought a hose and told us to drink. We didn’t know what was the source of that water but we had to drink because we were so thirsty. We had fights to drink a bit of this water”.
Around 8pm, some of the officers wearing blue uniforms loaded everybody in one semi-trailer truck and a traffic van. Some officers had “Police” written on them; some not. Some officers had balaclavas, some did not. The respondent said that the officers were holding batons and “ready to hit.”
The respondent was taken in the van, with around 35 other people, including the woman and her kid. The others were loaded into the semi-trailer truck. They all had to stand since there was no space enough to sit. They were driven for 30 minutes “recklessly” on, first, a paved road, then on an unpaved road. They ended up at the Evros/Meriç riverside, in a location near Lavara.
There were about 15 Greek officers and a plastic boat was waiting on the river. Some officers were in camouflage uniforms, some in sage green uniforms and others were wearing blue shirts. The boat was about 3 by 2 meters and was powered by an engine. The respondent said that there were two officers wearing camouflage driving the boat who talked in Turkish to each other. The respondent knew some Turkish words but could not understand exactly what was being said.
After getting the people out of the van and truck, the officers ordered them to stand in lines and to kneel on the ground. Then they searched all 150 people and started to load them in the boat, around 8 to 10 people at a time. The officers left the people on a small islet in the middle of the river and ordered them to jump in the water to cross to the Turkish side. The water level was high enough that the people had to swim to reach the riverbank. The current was strong but everyone managed to get to the river bank.
All of the people from the group previously detained were eventually pushed back across the river and ended up around the village of Karayusuflu. Once in Turkey, the people were found by 6-7 Turkish military officers. “They stopped us, they gathered us all together and ordered us to split into groups according to our nationalities”. The Turkish soldiers advised the group to split up and to not stay in big groups, as they might encounter other soldiers that would push them back across the river if they caught them.
The respondent walked about three kilometres with his friend and two other Syrian men. They found a man to drive them in exchange for money but the man threatened them with a gun and stole their money. “The Syrian men ran far away, and me and my friend spent the night there.” In the morning, the respondent and his friend took a taxi. It took them about one hour and a half to drive back to Edirne.