“They took us and put us in a point which is closer to the Albanian border”

  • Date and time: November 25, 2020 18:00
  • Location: near Trestenik, Albania
  • Coordinates: 40.585919, 21.041593
  • Pushback from: Albania
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 9 person(s), age: 29 , from: Iran, Syria, Morocco
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: no violence used
  • Police involved: 2 Greek police officers, 3 Albanian army officers, rest unknown
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent, a 29-year-old man from Morocco, was pushed back from Albania to Greece.

At 3 pm on the 22nd of November 2020, the respondent took a bus from Thessaloniki to Kastoria, a city 28 km away from the Greek-Albanian border. The route is indicated below.

Three hours later, at 6PM, police stopped the bus a few kilometers outside of Kastoria. Two Greek police officers in civil clothing entered the bus and apprehended the respondent along with eight men from Morocco, three men from Syria, and an Iranian couple with their baby.

The group of 15 were taken to a car and driven towards Albania. According to the respondent, the two police officers asked them if they wanted to go to the Albanian border, affirmed by the group. The drive lasted around half an hour. The respondent described that they were “just outside of Kastoria” when the officers told them to get out of the car.

 

“They took us and put us in a point which is closer to the Albanian border.”

 

From there, the group started their journey to Albania. They reached the border after walking for three days. 

On the 25th of November, they crossed the border between Greece and Albania successfully and went to a nearby village. The respondent could not remember the name of the village as he struggled with orientation after “crossing a lot of mountains.” He explained that it was the first village after passing the border. Based on this information, the respondent and his group might have been in Ponçarë (see map below).

In Ponçarë, at around 12 pm, three Albanian officers approached the group on foot. The respondent stated that they wore blue uniforms with a “flag which is yellow and red.” 

 

“Like the Albanian?” “Yeah.”

 

He also claimed seeing the officers carry binoculars. The respondent asserted that the officers are from the army.

 

“They are army, I know them. They wear blue uniforms.”

 

Once the officers reached the group, they ordered them to sit down and whilst they made a call. Around 15 minutes later, a green Land Rover arrived. The first group of six, including the respondent, was taken to a camp close by. The drive lasted for approximately half an hour. Afterwards, the rest of the group were brought to the same camp with another car, as stated by the respondent. This corresponds with an earlier report from June 2020 in which the respondent was taken to a camp that he thought was near the village of Ponçarë.

At the camp, the respondent remembered seeing around 40 other people; families, men, women, children, and elderly people.

 

“Most of the people they are not families, are not women, are not children. Still there is a lot women and babies.”

 

There, they received a meal, and their fingerprints and photos were taken. A translator was present. The police informed the people that they were going to be pushed back to Greece. 

While waiting in the camp, the respondent stated that the authorities were not violent nor were his belongings taken away from him. 

It was difficult for him to detect which unit the authorities in the camp were part of:

 

“Their uniforms is mixed. I can’t know if there are only army or mixed with the police.”

 

The respondent stated that he had to wait for around three hours in the camp, because they only used the one Land Rover to bring people back to the border.

 

“They came back by this car and came again and again. They start with the families first.”

 

Then, the respondent along with 8 other people, including one woman with her baby who the respondent described as “very exhausted and crying”, were put in the Land Rover. 

 

“It is not even enough for five people, but they are using it for nine, ten people.”

 

After approximately a half an hour drive, they reached the Albanian-Greek border. The respondent did not remember the exact location, as a result of it being dark. He described the surroundings as the following:

 

“In the border, on the Greek-Albanian border, there is no barbed wire, there is just a line. In the woods.”

 

The group of 9 were pushed back to Greece at 6PM. The approximate location is indicated below. 

 

“They never violent us. They just told us go back to Greece.”

 

Once on Greek territory, the respondent and his group walked for approximately 60 kms – two days of walking and one night of sleeping outside – until they reached a village part of the regional unit of Kastoria, close to Kastoria city. 

The respondent did not ask for asylum.