“ “I was screaming from pain, he punched me twice on my stomach and held my hair and shaved it with that knife.””

  • Date and time: May 5, 2022 18:00
  • Location: Soufli (GR) to Adasarhanlı (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.1943451, 26.2992566
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 63 person(s), age: 10 - 55 , from: Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, Central Africa
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, water immersion, sexual assault, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, racist violence
  • Police involved: Two men in marine-blue uniforms with guns and plastic batons (speaking Greek and English), two men in black uniforms and balaclavas with guns and a knife (speaking Greek and English), seven uniformed men with sage-green uniforms and batons (GR), two men in black uniforms and balaclavas armed with guns (speaking Greek), metal batons and tree branches, four men in black shirts, green camouflage pants and balaclavas armed with metal batons and tree branches (speaking Greek), four men in civilian clothes armed with tree branches (Arabic speakers, some clearly understood Greek - likely TCNs)
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 24-year-old male from Morocco, recounts the second pushback he has experienced from Greece, which took place on 05/05/2022.

At 9pm on Sunday 01/05/2022, the respondent, along with two other Moroccan males, set out on foot from Edirne to the Greek border. The group’s ages ranged from 24-32. By 11pm, they arrived at a 5-meter barbed border fence near Karaağaç. They crossed the fence at 11:15pm and quickly started running across muddy farmland to get to a dry river area nearby.

They walked for four days and nights through forested areas between mountains, resting at sunrise. In the early morning of 05/05/2022 the group arrived at a crossroads about 4km from Komotini. There was a large four-lane road, which they were waiting to cross so as to continue on to the mountains.

The respondent stated that at 8am, while they were waiting to cross the road, a white Nissan Qashqai with a red and blue siren and a blue strip with “police” written on the side (see image below) that was driving on the opposite side of the road slowed down and parked. The car then started to drive again and the group thought that it was leaving, but then it turned in their direction and drove towards them, stopping just a few feet from them. The respondent was not able to recall the number plate of the vehicle.

There were two uniformed men in the car, who stepped out and started speaking in Greek to the transit group. The men were dressed in marine-blue short-sleeved shirts and pants with ‘police’ written in English (see image below). They each had guns and black plastic batons in a holster. When they realised that the group did not understand Greek, they asked them in English where they were from. The respondent stated that they said they were from Morocco and then they were told in English to step to the side of the road.

The respondent stated that the below images matched the clothing and car he described.

Image 1: Short sleeved Greek Police uniform
Image 2: Nissan Qashqai Greek Police Car

The respondent stated that the group was made to wait at the side of the road for 30 minutes. During this time, the uniformed men did not address them, but spoke to each other and over walkie-talkie in Greek. The group was not beaten, was not searched and they did not have anything taken from them during this time.

Then a large yellow Mercedes van arrived. This vehicle had no other logos or identifying signs and it had a Greek license plate.

The respondent stated that the van matched the vehicle in the below image, except that the colour was yellow.

Image 3: White unmarked Mercedes van

There were two men wearing balaclavas driving this vehicle. They stepped out and spoke to the other uniformed men in Greek. They did not speak to the transit group. They were wearing black uniform shirts with short sleeves, black pants and black boots. They also had guns in their holsters.

The respondent described the uniforms as matching those in the photo below.

Image 4: Plain black uniform

The group was loaded into the trunk of the van and forced to sit on the ground. There was no one else in the van. The respondent described the trunk as 2 by 3 metres and said they were able to breathe properly but that they could not see outside and that the trunk was locked.

The vehicle drove fast for one hour and twenty minutes non-stop to a detention site, where they were taken from the trunk of the vehicle. There were no other vehicles in front of the site when they arrived. By now it was 09:30 am.

The respondent saw the detention site from the outside and the surrounding area. The building had no official police or army signs. He described two single-story buildings attached to each other. One of the buildings had a flat roof and the other had an aluminum gabled roof “like a garage”. There was a junkyard area with many old trailers and a rusty old truck. The wider area was farmland, with one building – “a farm” – far off in the distance. Later from the small window of the cell they were held in, he could see the back of the site, which was surrounded by a 3m fence. From there he also saw a factory far off in the distance.

The respondent stated that there were seven uniformed men present at the detention site. They were wearing sage green pants and sage green shirts with the Greek flag on their right arm and the word ‘guard’ on the left arm above some words in Greek. None of these men were wearing balaclavas. They each had a plastic baton on their holsters.

The respondent stated that the uniforms of these men matched those in the photo below.

Image 5: Green-uniformed Greek border guards 

The group was taken inside the building, being pulled by their shirts and hands with force. They were made to stand in a line next to a wall. In addition to the seven men in the green uniforms, the drivers of the van were also still present. One of the drivers of the van came to the respondent holding a knife and proceeded to assault him while the other officers laughed:

“One of the van drivers came to me and told me in English, ‘you want to look like European, I will tell you how the European do.’ He asked his friend for knife and hold my hair, and when I said “please!” and I was screaming from the pain, he punched me twice in my stomach and held my hair  and shaved it with that knife. They were laughing and kicked me with force on my stomach.”

The respondent stated that he was sure at this time that the assailant was going to stab him with the knife.

After this incident, the group were forced to undress completely. Their backpacks and clothing were taken and searched. The search was conducted by three of the men in the sage-green uniforms. The respondent stated that all of their belongings were searched and that everything was eventually taken — including telephones, money, their backpacks and shoes — except for a pair of pants and a shirt each. The respondent had €70, which was taken at this point.

The respondent stated that this went on for 30 minutes, throughout which they were forced to stand naked. Each person in the transit group was beaten with plastic batons, kicked and punched on various parts of their bodies. The uniformed men spoke to each other in Greek and to the transit group in English: “Few words: ‘turn’ and ‘shut up’ and ‘walk to there.’”

Image 6: The respondent’s thigh with bruises obtained through violent assaults

After they had been given back a pair of pants and shirt each, the group were put into a cell. The respondent described it as a 7 x 5 meter cell with walls made from aluminium and a door like a cage. The floors were dirty and there was no toilet.

The respondent stated that there were around 60 other people in the cell already, of Moroccan, Syrian, Palestinian, Afghan and Central African origin. He estimated that their ages ranged from 10 to 55. There were two Syrian women among the group. There were three minors in total who were with their families.

The respondent and everyone else was detained for approximately seven or eight hours. During this time, they had no toilet access, and were not given any water or food. They were not requested to present any documents, did not have to sign anything, and their fingerprints and photos were not taken. There was no translator present.

At approximately 5pm the entire group was taken from the cell by a group of six men in uniforms and balaclavas. The respondent stated that two of them were dressed in the same uniforms as those who had driven them to the detention site, and the other four were wearing black shirts and green camouflage pants. None of their clothing had any insignia, armband or flag. All six men were armed with metal batons and tree branches. The two dressed in black also had guns in their holsters on their waist.

The respondent said that they were spoken to by only one of the masked group, who spoke Arabic in a Syrian dialect: “He said, “Get out animals, hurry up.”

The group was taken outside and loaded into two white sprinter Mercedes vans. Neither of the vans had any flag or other official sign on their sides and both had Greek license plates. The respondent estimated that there were approximately 33 people in the van that he was loaded into. There were three of the balaclava-wearing men per vehicle also.

The vans drove very fast for 10 minutes along unpaved roads. The respondent could only manage to see the unpaved road and dust getting into the van from outside. The trunk had no windows but small holes on the side.

The vans arrived at the pushback site – a farmland area in Soufli/Lagyna close to the Evros/Meriç river with many trees around. Between the Greek side and the Turkish sides of the river there were some small islands. Everyone that was in their cell was brought to this location.

In addition to the six men that had taken the group from the detention site to the pushback site, there were another four men wearing civilian clothes, with no logos or armbands identifying them. The four men in civilian dress all spoke Arabic but different dialects: the respondent estimated that some were Iraqi, some Syrian. They were all carrying tree branches.

The respondent said that the Arabic-speaking men would sometimes speak to the uniformed men in Greek, but otherwise they only spoke to the detained group in Arabic to explain what the men in black told them.

The families in the group were ordered to stay in one separate group. Everyone from the group was ordered to give over everything they had hidden.

There were no other people present at the site of the pushback. The pushback group was made up only of those who had been detained at the detention site.

The respondent stated that he was searched again and beaten with both a tree branch and a metal baton. At this point he was still just wearing his pants and a shirt.

The respondent said that after 20 minutes they were taken to a boat that was already on the river. It was a 3 x 1 metre inflatable rubber boat – blue on the outside and white on the inside. Groups of eight people were ordered onto the boat, with two drivers from the group of civilian-clothed, arabic-speaking men. In terms of the entire pushback, the respondent stated that he was positioned in the middle.

The drivers of the boat used paddles to get across the river. They only brought the groups as far as a small island in the middle of the river, however, including the women and minors. From there, the groups were left to make their way across to the Turkish side. The respondent described the water level as slightly above waist-height. The groups attempted to walk back, “but some were taking wrong path and they had to swim.”

The respondent said that he got to the Turkish side before his friends, one of whom had been very badly beaten, and that he waited for them.

“One of them were beaten so hard and we barely could walk our leg. We were hungry and our feet hurt.”

They walked for one hour until they arrived to the village of Adasarhanlı. From there, they managed to get a taxi, thinking that they would be able to find their friend, who could help to pay for the taxi. The drive took one hour and thirty minutes, but they did not find their friend, and had a problem with the taxi driver, who threatened to call the police. In the end, however, they managed to arrange the payment for the taxi.

The respondent stated that he did not express his intention to claim asylum out of fear.

“I couldn’t, I was afraid and scared even to talk all the way. But in the apprehension, I talked to the officers who caught me and he ignored us, he didn’t even talk to us.”