“We will release you soon, just wait”

  • Date and time: November 8, 2020 00:00
  • Location: near Ipsala
  • Coordinates: 40.941282, 26.351559
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 150 person(s), age: 28 , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, unidentified Arab countries
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, handcuffs, denial of food and water
  • Police involved: 4 Greek police officers in Thessaloniki, 12 Greeks police officers in Evros region (wearing grey khaki uniforms with Greek flags sewed), 2 white unlabelled vans, 1 green bus, other large vehicles
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, denial of food/water, theft of money, theft of personal belongings
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Mobile Info Team

Original Report

On the morning of November 8th, 2020, at around 12:00 the respondent, a 28 year old man from Pakistan, was with a group of other 5 Pakistani men at the bus station of Thessaloniki, trying to buy a ticket to travel from Thessaloniki to Athens. Reportedly, because of his precarious position being undocumented and having crossed into Greece rather recently, he was standing outside of the station ticket office, in the covered area were buses park and load, while others were buying the ticket for him.

While in the premises of the bus station, the group was approached by two men claiming to be police officers, but who were wearing civilian clothes with no recognizable insignia and arrived driving an unlabelled white van. The two asked the respondent to show his documents, but since he had none, they handcuffed him and made him sit. The same happened to the rest of the group. Shortly after another couple of police officers in civilian clothes arrived, driving a similar vehicle.

The group was made to enter the back of the vans and drove away for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, before arriving at a location that the respondent called a “jail” and a “police station”, at around 13:00. The group was quickly brought up to the first floor of the building. 

Once inside, the group was made to undress, they were searched and their belongings were seized, including money, mobile phones and precious objects. The group was then made to enter a closed room without windows and sit there for some hours, without food or water. In the room, they met 15 other people, all men, some from Arabic countries and some from Afghanistan. A few hours later, the respondent recalled the police officers giving them their clothes back, but not their belongings.

Afterwards, a man wearing civilian clothes entered the room where the people were imprisoned and, according to the respondent, told them “We will release you soon, just wait”. Then, when it was already late in the evening, all the people were taken out of the room and led outside of the building, where a large green bus was waiting parked inside the premises of the police station.

From a cross-reference of the details collected, including the driving distances between the place of apprehension and the description of the premises of the building, it is possible to assume that the police station in question might have been the Border Police station of Agiou Athanasiou, located in a small and secluded municipality on the north-western outskirts of Thessaloniki metropolitan area.

The bus drove for about 4 or 5 hours, before reaching another unidentified location, described as an “open place” that was under the surveillance of around 10 or 15 other policemen, including one woman officer, all wearing grey-khaki uniforms with Greek flags sewed on, and speaking in Greek to one another. Known places of detention in that region are Tychero, Kipi and Feres. The respondent recalled spending around 1 or 2 hours in that place, where a total of 150 people was confined, including women and children, before all the people were made to enter many large vehicles that were parked in the surrounding area. During that time, the people were only given water to drink, but still nothing to eat.

After a ride of approximately 15 or 20 minutes, they reached the Evros/Meriç river in an area that the respondent recalled to be in the proximity of the Turkish district of İpsala. The police officers who drove them, who during the whole time were wearing masks to cover their faces, led them to a wooden boat moored close by. The people marched as ordered through the woods, barefooted, and were made to cross the river with multiple trips on the boat. The respondent noted the cruelty with which the policemen left them insufficiently dressed for the cold weather conditions. 

All through these events, the respondent repeatedly expressed his intention to ask for asylum in Greece, but his demands were ignored.