The respondent is a 32-year-old man from Morocco who was pushed back on the 24th or 25th of November 2021 from Greece to Turkey. He crossed the Greek-Turkish border on the 18th or 19th of November 2021 from Edirne in a group of eight people. At one point the group split up to be two groups of four. One member of the group was a minor.
The respondent explained that they were chased by what seemed to be police officers on the first day after they crossed the border. After running away from them, the group walked for seven days to Alexandroupolis. During those seven days, they did not have enough food, because they had heard from others that if they would buy food or ask for food, the police would be called.
“We preferred to be hungry, rather than getting pushed back”
Once they arrived in Alexandroupolis, the group of four reportedly went to look for trucks with the intention to hide underneath and travel that way. However, he mentioned that the police were aware of this travel method and used infrared technology to spot people attempting this. The group was hiding in a bush and waiting for a truck to come. Around 1.30 AM, the police arrived and apprehended the group. One group member managed to run away and the other three stayed in their place.
Reportedly, there were two male Greek police officers who arrived in a vehicle similar to a pick-up or a van. They spoke Greek according to the respondent, so he assumed them to be Greek police officers. They were wearing a blue uniform and facemasks. As soon as the officers apprehended them, they took everyone’s phone away. They reportedly told the group to lay down on the ground before the officers started beating them with their “strong and long” batons. The respondent explained he got beaten many times on his back. It is unclear how long the beating went on.
After the beating, the officers put the group in the trunk of their vehicle. According to the respondent, there was not enough space for the three of them. The officers took the group to a police station that felt like a 15 to 20-minute drive from the place of apprehension. The respondent could not identify the location because their phones were taken away by the officers and they could not use Google Maps to find their location. But he mentioned it felt like the police station was close to Alexandroupolis.
“They don’t give you the chance to talk to them, they just close the door of the cell, and they leave. Even if you call them for emergencies, they don’t come.”
According to the respondent, they arrived at the police station around 2 or 2.30 AM. Once they had arrived, the group was reportedly further searched, and all of their belongings were taken. They had to take their shoes, pants, and jackets off, and their powerbanks and sleeping bags were also taken away. Then they were brought to a big cell where they met some people from Afghanistan. The respondent mentioned it was freezing inside and there were no sleeping bags in the cell for warmth.
The group was not provided any food or water, they drank water from the tap at the toilet. Reportedly, it was very dirty inside the cell. There was no translator or lawyer present. They did not experience any violence at the police station. Upon asking if the respondent asked for asylum, he responded that the officers did not give them a chance to talk.
The respondent explained that the group was at the police station for almost 24 hours; from 2 or 2.30 AM until 12, midnight the next evening. During this time, more people were brought in by officers. According to the respondent these people were from different countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Algeria. Among the group were reportedly men, women, and minors, and one family with young children around 10-12 years old. The respondent explained that when they were pushed back, the group consisted of around 80 people.
The respondent stated that all of them were put inside a truck. Because it was night, the respondent could not see everything clearly, but the truck might have been grey. The back of the truck was not metal, but plastic according to the respondent. He explained that the group was brought to the river (supposedly the Evros/Meriç River that forms much of the border between Greece and Turkey) with the truck, the drive was reportedly around what felt like half an hour. Officers who were working at the police station were also with them in the truck. It is not clear how many officers there were present in the truck or at the police station.
“Everybody was depressed and very sad because they knew that they would go to the zero again, because you already made one step when you get to Greece”
According to the respondent, during the drive in the truck, the officers beat them with their batons. It is unclear who they were beating and for how long. The respondent explained that everyone was very upset and depressed during the ride because they had spent so much money to get to Greece and now, they would go back to “zero” again.
When the truck arrived at the river, the respondent stated that there were around six male officers in balaclavas waiting for them, they were reportedly carrying “advanced guns”. Among them were persons described as “Greek army” and persons who were wearing a dark blue uniform. The respondent explained that he heard some of his friends say that “this is NATO”, which is a term commonly used by people-on-the-move to refer to Frontex officers. However, in the absence of other descriptors (e.g. Frontex insignia, blue armbands) it is difficult to state with certainty that Frontex officers were involved. Reportedly, these six officers seemed to be making sure that they were not seen by the Turkish army. The officers spoke basic English words to the group, like ‘go’ and ‘sit’.
“Turkey and Greece have problems between each other, and they are using us to deal with these problems […] We are a victim of firs tof all our situation in our countries, and then the situation between Turkey and Greece.”
The pushback reportedly occurred on the 24th or 25th of November 2021 around 2AM. As mentioned before, because the respondent’s phone was taken away, he could not accurately identify the pushback location. The provided coordinates are thus a very rough estimation. At the location of the pushback, the group was split up into subgroups of around 15 people. Each smaller group was then brought on a boat with two persons described as officers who were wearing balaclavas and dark blue uniforms. The respondent explained he could not see anything on their uniform. One of the officers was driving the boat while the other made sure no one “made any trouble”.
The officers had told the group to put their heads down and to stay quiet. Once they got to the Turkish side, the respondent explained that everyone started taking action, like calling for a car to pick them up or walking to Edirne to get to Istanbul. But according to the respondent, to get to Istanbul you need at least 50 euros, and some did not have any money, so they just stayed there. The respondent expressed there is a lot of racism from both the Greek and Turkish side and that they are victims to first, their own situation in their country of origin, and second, the situation between Turkey and Greece.