The main respondent of this testimony was inside a cargo truck on the night of the 10th of September of 2020, which was in turn on a vessel parting from the Greek port of Igoumenitsa towards Italy.
The boat took only 8 to 10 hours to arrive in Italian territory, likely to the port of Brindisi, arriving hence in the early morning of the 11th of September. The respondent remembers the vessel’s main colors to be white and navy blue. According to his testimony, the truck was moving fast in order to exit the boat, and the numerous boxes inside it were moving from one side to the other, which caused the truck driver to wonder if there was a problem with its merchandise. When stopping in order to check, he found a cut on the ceiling of his vehicle, then called the local police.
The officials found the Afghan man inside the truck. In the moment, he was handcuffed and taken to a police station in a vehicle. Once there, he was asked for his age and whether he had any documents with him, to which the victim of the push-back answered negatively. He was then asked individual questions to make a picture of his identity, such as birthplace, nationality, etc. In the process, his fingerprints were taken.
“I told them I wanted to stay in Italy. I asked for asylum and they answered ‘no, no, maybe later'”.
All in all, the man spent only about one hour in the Italian port, as he was taken on the police car to a boat that would push him back to Greece. “It was a different boat than the one I had arrived in, but it was the same ship company.” This time, however, he was not traveling alone: he was forced to board the ship along with another young Afghan man whom the respondent had never met before.
According to the main respondent of this testimony, the leader of the ship –a woman– ordered the workers of the vessel to take the two men to a room, which the victim refers to as “a cellar” with no access to a toilet or running water.
“They locked the door after placing us inside: we were in a small dark room resembling a cellar. There was a round window and the freezing air entered constantly. I spent the whole journey running inside the small room. It was very cold.”
When asked what was inside the cellar, the man answers: “No beds, no blankets, no light. Nothing. Just cold”.
In the long 24 hours that the boat took to arrive to Greece, the respondent started a conversation with his companion, and he explains that whereas he had parted from Igoumenitsa, the other man being pushed-back had parted from the port of Patras.
When they arrived to Igoumenitsa, they were taken to a police station inside the port. The respondent highlights that it was near the fence bordering the port. “In the station, the police officers told us: ‘There is a van coming in two hours which will take you to Turkey’.”
The main respondent warned his fellow companion that they would be pushed-back to Turkey, as he had heard of this story happening before. The second man, however, was certain that this could not possibly happen to him for his documents were in order and had permission to stay in Greece. Still, the main respondent told his companion: “If the van comes, they will take you to Turkey. It doesn’t matter if you have documents, if you have asylum or whatever. They will take you.”
“I can’t stay here to be taken to Turkey”, the attestant explained to the fellow Afghan man. When the port security guard left for a few minutes, the respondent rushed to jump the fence and flee the port, leaving his travel comrade behind and not knowing whatever ended up happening to him, but convinced that he was pushed-back to Turkey regardless of his legal status.