The respondent, a 23 year old from Afghanistan, was pushed back on the 12th of September 2021 from Greece to Üyüklütatar, Turkey. This was already the third pushback he experienced, the last one was 5 years ago.
The respondent started walking on the 10th September 2021, from Uzunköprü at 05:00 with 26 other male afghans between 18-23 and 34 years old. Two smugglers were also accompanying them.
The group were aiming to walk from Edirne to Uzunköprü. After 16 miles of walking (taking a duration of about 5 hours), the group came across Turkish police who let them cross as the respondent told them they were going to Greece. The group crossed the river by boat at around 10:00-10.30 am. Each boat was loaded with 6 people and additionally two smugglers. They arrived at one of the islands in Evros/Meriç river and waited there until 7pm in order to cross into Greece. After changing clothes because they got wet, they walked for another 1,5 hours into the woods, crossed a road and then ran very fast for 1,5 h through the woodland. Later they crossed a train track and were running on the right side along the train tracks for another 30 minutes.
At one point they stopped for 5 minutes as the police were nearby the road, so the group had to hide. After the police left, they ran fast for another 3 hours.
When the group reached near to the Bulgarian border, they were apprehended between 22:00-23:00 by two police officers in a white 4×4 pick-up truck. The respondent described an officer wearing a uniform which looked like it matched those displayed below in the picture.
They were also armed with a handgun similar to the one shown in the picture below:
The police officers asked who in the group could speak English and announced that the person who could speak English would be beaten. No one answered but someone said something in English and got beaten by the officers in response to this. The transit group were told to look at the ground, lie stomach down, with hands on their head. The officers asked the group for their mobile phones. One person gave the phone and because of that, the police assumed that he must be a smuggler and in response beat him. The people in the group who had been taking pictures got their phones taken as well and were forced to stay on the floor for about 20-25 minutes. The man who had the phone was very badly beaten and kicked in the chest until he fainted.
At the site of apprehension two police vehicles appeared with more people. One car was a small white Greek police car with blue stripes, as the picture shows below, and had the back side open.
One woman was driving this vehicle, she was dressed in Jeans and a grey Shirt. The other vehicle was a minibus in blue and white with a police insignia like the picture shows below. Inside the bus, the seats had “German police” written on its seats. Although the respondent could not see a German flag or uniform, the back of the seats were inscribed in this way.
One man was driving this bus but the respondent didn’t see his clothing. The woman who was sitting in the small white Greek police car came and kicked the respondents cap off. She insulted him verbally.
All men of the group were told to get up and stand in a line, indicated by the officers’ torche light. This took about 5 minutes. All 26 men were then loaded in the mini bus and were driven at around 60/70 km/h for 1,5 hours to what the respondent referred to as a “camp”.
First they crossed through woodland on unpaved and further paved roads. After 30 – 35 minutes of driving, they got to a paved road through villages for the rest of the journey. Once during the journey, the minibus stopped for about a minute, the police officers opened the bus and shone the torch at the respondent and the others of the group. The respondent was not able to completely understand what they said, but suggested that the police didn’t think the location was suitable for a pushback and went on in the bus.
After another drive, for 30 – 35 minutes at approyimately 60-70 km/h, through a town/urban area, they arrived to what the respondent called “Camp”. The respondent could not see the surrounding of the facility as they entered the place by being seated inside in the minibus. He did describe the surrounding as quiet. Close to the doors of the detention site, the respondent could see trees and houses.
After entering the building, everyone in the group was told to throw their bags from something similar to a balcony. As the men were told to have their heads down, so the respondent could not see much. They were further told to line up and 6 new police officers appeared.
These were wearing lighter beige uniform, COVID-masks and medical white gloves. The respondent referred to a uniform with a light beige colour. Among these 6 officers was one female officer. One of the officers was carrying a baseball bat.
Again they officers asked the group which of them speaks English but no one replied. Then, they were told to take off their shoes and socks, jackets and belts and nearly all clothing besides a shirt and underwear. One by one they were told to step forward in order to be searched. After being searched, they were told to step back in line, to lie down facing the other side, hands on their heads and stomach down. In total this search took for 10 – 15 minutes.
As the officers were speaking English, lots of people did not understand what the officers were saying while searching them. In response, they were hit with a baseball bat. 30 cm length weilded by the officer.
After all 26 men were searched, they were put into a small detention cell of 5 x 4 meters in size. This cell contained 4 bunk beds, so 8 beds in total without mattresses. The respondent described the cell as having white walls, grey ceiling, a white colour cardboard and a white CCTV with which the police could see the inside of the room. They were not allowed to talk and were threatened to be punished if they would still talk.
Every hour, more people were brought to the cell so that in total 95 – 100 people were held in there according to the respondent. They were from Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, between 1,5 and 55 years old. 5 women and 3 children with the age of 1 and a half, 2 and 3 years were among them. One of the children had breathing problems and was coughing, the parents asked for medical assistance but that was denied. One Syrian man was travelling for 5 days until he got apprehended.
Nearly 100 people were held in the cell of 5 x 4 meters according to the respondent, for a period of 6 – 7 hours overnight. Throughout the stay in the detention cell no food, water, medical assistance or toilet was provided. The intention to ask for asylum was not expressed by the respondent during this time.
At 8 am on Sunday morning, one police man came and told everyone to stand in line. 4 – 5 other policemen came, all dressed in black uniforms, wearing black Balaclavas and armed with pistols. One among them was armed with a big gun, another one with a baseball bat. The respondent later confirmed the uniform as similar as below, but without any writing on it:
90 to 95 people were taken out of the cell and were split between one white van of the brand Mercedes or Renault and one camouflage coloured truck, which looked like the picture below but with permanent back instead of tarpaulin (see the pictures below).
The respondent was loaded in the latter mentioned truck. The officers who were driving were dressed the same way as those at the detention site, all in black EKAM uniforms and Balaclavas.
After driving for around 1,5 h at approx. 60-70 km/h, firstly on paved roads for 10 – 15 min and further on unpaved roads through woodland, they arrived at a location 100m next to the Evros/Meric river. Both the vehicles came to the same place, 95 people in total.
Around 50 – 70 people were already brought to this point so that they are now 180 – 190 people.
The respondent and everyone with him in the van was being pushed and hit by in total 10 – 12 officers (all dressed as the description above) with baseball sticks and boat paddles to get out of the van and towards the river.
Two other cars additionally arrived to the spot, one white van (as the van above, White van – often Mercedes or Renault) and one small dark coloured Jeep, with no insignia of being a police car, so similar as the picture below but not exactly the same.
Inside this Jeep a man with a collared blue shirt was sitting and just watched and spoke to one of the police officers who was also dressed in black but not wearing balaclavas and white glasses.
All of the people at the site were told to sit down in 7 – 8 lines. The respondent described 4 people wearing civilian clothing who spoke a little bit of Turkish and English, assumingly they were third country nationals (according to the respondent maybe Afghan or Syrian). These 4 men inflated two boats of white and green colour with two paddles. Each time 8 people and 2 of the men who inflated the boat got on each boat. At around 10:00 on Sunday morning, the respondent was in one of the last groups who were supposed to cross by boat to the Turkish side, when Turkish border police arrived. The ones who already arrived in Turkish territory started running, according to the respondent it must have been 4-5 groups, so around 40 – 50 people.
The others who didn’t cross yet were loaded back in the cars, the respondent back in the camouflage green truck as mentioned above. After a 30 – 40 minutes drive through the jungle they stopped at a point nearby the river which was very wide.
All of the approx. 100 people who arrived at this point had to swim to cross, the water level was high but the water was not strong in drift. They created a sort of a chain by holding each other’s hands as they crossed the water. The woman and children among the group didn’t cross by swimming, the respondent doesn’t know how they crossed or what happened to them.
The officers in the black EKAM uniforms told the people to swim towards the right side for 5-6 minutes. After arriving at Turkish territory, the group walked for about 5 – 10 km in the Jungle. Everybody went a different way but 6 people stayed with the respondent, all of them afghan and between 18-23/24 years.
After 5 hours, this group reached a road, walked another 20 minutes on this road until Turkish police arrived. They already had apprehended 20 people from Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan before they apprehended the respondent and his group, some of them were being pushed back together with the respondent.
The respondent could hide in the jungle with 5 other friends, staying there for a couple of minutes until the police left. They kept checking the road but the respondent managed to hide each time.