The respondent, a 20 year old man from Libya, was arrested together with a fellow countryman around 6:30pm on the 16th of October 2020 at a railroad crossing close to Roxanis street in Thessaloniki, Greece. He had just arrived in Thessaloniki one day before, and had gone to the industrial area outside the city center in order to receive food, clothing, and medical care by two well-known organizations which are operating there. After the food distribution he was leaving the area together with three other men, whom two of them managed to run away when the police arrived. The respondent described that six policemen, four dressed in civilian clothes and two dressed in blue police uniforms, arrived by three cars, two of them coming out of each car. One of the cars was a “normal police car”, while the other two, a black car and a white big van with two small windows, were not displaying any police signs. The respondent recalls, that once the police officers got out of the car, they started to beat him and the other man with sticks on their heads and shoulders before they put both of them into the white van. They were then driving for what the respondent estimates to be 15 to 20 minutes until they reached a police station. The van entered through a big gate and the respondent and the other Libyan man had to walk up a staircase to the first floor.
At the police station, the respondent describes that a woman, who was wearing civilian clothes but carrying a gun, was “registering” him because she asked for his name and surname. Afterwards the police officers who arrested him and the woman took away his personal belongings, which included food, clothes, a phone and charger, as well as 50 Euros. The respondent states he has not been given his belongings back at any time during the pushback. Another person that was arrested and spoke Arabic and English translated for the respondent to the police that he is from Libya and would like to apply for Asylum in Greece, the police did not respond to this.
He was then put into the cell, where he was staying alone for the first day, and accompanied by Syrian, Iraqi and Pakistani people on the second day. He recalls there were a total of 16 people. On his first day in the cell, he did not receive any food or water, even though he asked for the food in his backpack, and only when the other people arrived, the police gave him some money to eat, with which he bought a sandwich and a Coca-Cola. Due to that, he fell sick with stomach pain and nausea, which based on his impression caused the police to call the ambulance, which did not arrive. Because of the pain and the overall situation, the respondent was screaming which is why the police told him that he will also get his Khartia (note issued by the police that allows the holders who are third-country national to stay in Greece until the registration of their asylum application) and be then released from the station. They also gave him some pills against the pain, which the respondent swallowed without knowing what kind of pills they exactly were. After 3 days (October 19th), the respondent and the other 16 people were put into a van that looked exactly like the one that brought him from the railroad tracks to the police station. He estimated the drive took about two and a half hours. Only one officer in civilian clothes was driving the van. The respondent also states that another van brought people from the same police station to the second, and estimates that around 25 people in total have been brought there. He was the youngest person in his van and it was only men.
The other man from Libya who has been arrested together with the respondent, was released at the same day from the police station after the validity of his Khartia was checked by the police woman.
Once the respondent and the other men arrived at the second location, they were body searched by two men dressed in civilian clothes with electric tasers and shotguns on their belts. Their shoes and most of their clothes were taken away. They were then brought into a room, with around 80 people inside, who the respondent describes as being of different nationalities and ages, including families, men, women and children of the age of 15 to 50 years old. The situation in the room was described by the respondent as “very bad” because the room was very dirty and people were drinking water from the toilet because no water has been provided by the officers. The respondent himself asked the officers for food but did not get any response.
At midnight, after what the respondent estimates to be 3 hours at the location, a car picked up the people and drove them within 20 minutes to the river bank. The respondent describes that the car was black, had no windows, and resembled an Opel, which is usually used for transporting chicken or meat. A lot of people have been put inside the car, and because it was very dark he was not able to see anything inside.
When the respondent and the other people left the car at the river bank, four to six men in balaclavas, wearing green clothes with no insignia on them and carrying electric tasers and guns which the respondent said resembled Kalaschnikows were behaving “very violent”, beating everyone who was looking at their faces, did not sit down really quickly or did not follow their orders. They were beating them with metal sticks, the back of their guns and they were using electric tasers. The respondent describes that the men “”did not care” were they beat them, and hit them on their faces and heads as well. He himself was hit in the face, from which he received a broken nose. The respondent speaks a little bit of English and said that the officers were talking Greek and English to each other. The people were then in groups of 10 to 12 people put into a grey dinghy, which drove them to the middle of the river. From there they had to get off and continue to the Turkish side of the river by swimming. The respondent says that some people were afraid that they would die because they did not know how to swim. He further recalls that two men from Pakistan were driving the boat, he bases this assumption on the way they looked and the fact that they were not speaking Arabic. Women and children were deported to Turkey at the end, and kept separately from the men at the river bank.
After the respondent reached the Turkish side of the river, he walked for eight hours to a town called Ipsala, which he says was about 20 kilometres away from the location he was pushed back. He made this journey without shoes or proper clothing, and no food or water.