“Yes, this blue band with the EU flag!”

  • Date and time: September 26, 2020 23:00
  • Location: Near Orestiada
  • Coordinates: 41.513918990944, 26.575468297841
  • Push-back from: Greece
  • Push-back to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 55 person(s), age: 10 months to 60 years , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, DR Congo
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: Six “masked men” without and five with assault rifles, one Frontex officer (nationality unclear), min. 5 officers in Greek uniform and 6 people in camouflage uniform with balaclavas
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

On September 10, at around 8pm, the respondent crossed the border to Greece together with three other men close from Marasia. They kept walking for 17 days. 

The respondent describes how all night long in every night, patrol cars were driving around. On the seventh day, the respondent spotted police on top of a mountain close from the village of Roussa who appeared to be searching the area with binoculars and spotlights. 

In Roussa, the group encountered an old Greek man. They begged him not to call the police, but he did not respond so they started running away, uphill. Shortly after, they saw five police cars searching the valley. 

In Esochi, they met three other men on the move, two Algerians and one Tunisian and decided to continue together. In Xanthi, the Tunisian man was not able to continue anymore and decided to try his luck at the bus stop. 

The respondent and the other five proceeded by foot, following highway 2. Suddenly they witnessed another group of three being apprehended by police who had been hiding under a bridge. The officers unleashed their dogs to stop and arrest the three strangers. 

While waiting for the situation to calm down, the respondent and his group met four Pakistani men. They exchanged water and cigarettes with each other. After a while, the Pakistanis tried their luck first and successfully passed by the bridge without police apprehending them. Shortly after, the respondent and his group continued as well. 

 

In Kavala, they met an old Greek man who gave them coffee and cigarettes and told them to wait. They were scared and were thinking of running away while he was gone but then he returned with a bag full of food that he had gotten from his workplace. 

 

In another village the next day, they found another man and his son and asked them for water. The old man wanted to give it to them, but the son called the police instead. The whole group of six tried to run away, but one of the Algerians was caught by police and the respondent believes the second Algerian was able to run away but is not sure as they lost him. The respondent was now left with the same three people he had initially crossed the border with. 

 

Close from Drama, they were sleeping in a forest when they were suddenly woken up by six “masked men” (dressed in black, wearing balaclavas) and one man in a blue uniform. One of the masked men held a gun against the respondents head and asked where they were from, but nobody was beaten. The seven men took the bags, phones and wallets from the group and told them to get into a grey Ford transit. The respondent described that some of them were not speaking Greek but English with each other. When asked for specifics, the respondent explained that the man in the blue uniform appeared not to speak Greek. When asked for more details regarding the uniform, the respondent explained it was bright blue and had “police” written on it (in English). When asked if it carried any flags, the respondent said yes, the flag of the European Union. When shown a picture of the light blue Frontex armbands, the respondent immediately said “yes, this blue band with the EU flag”. Unfortunately, the respondent was not able to clearly identify a specific uniform when shown several examples. 

 

The six masked men and the apparent Frontex officer made the whole group board the car. Two of the masked men drove the car, the others stayed behind. After around four hours, they arrived at a detention site which the respondent is sure was located in Alexandropouli. The respondent describes it as looking like a police station. Outside, there were several officers in Greek police uniforms. Inside were six or seven people in green camouflage uniform. All of them were wearing balaclavas. 

 

The respondent and his group were taken into a room which they estimated to be four by four meters and was already filled with 50 to 60 people. There were several families among them, one with a very small baby of around 10 or 11 months. There were people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Syria, Algeria and DR Congo. They were held there for around 8 hours without water, food or access to a toilet. 

 

Then, around 7pm, the men in camouflage uniform and with black balaclavas told them all to leave the room and get into a lorry (green camouflage as well). They were holding batons and used them to hit people while they were getting on the lorry. One of these soldiers spoke Turkish, the others Greek. 

The lorry drove for around three hours and stopped close to Evros river. Five soldiers with balaclavas and batons (possibly the same as at the detention site) were present as well as five men dressed in black with balaclavas and assault rifles. 

The whole group had to wait in silence for one hour before the boat was ready. Then, 10 at once, they were taken to the Turkish side of the river. 

There they walked until they found a taxi that took them back to Istanbul. The respondent was not able to say where exactly the pushback occurred, the location is thus roughly estimated based on the other details.