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Τετάρτη, 13 Νοεμβρίου 2013

[EN] PUSHED BACK

systematic human rights violations against refugees in the aegean sea and at the greek-turkish land border


PRO ASYL



















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4.5. Push-backs from Evros Region

The land border between Greece and Turkey runs along the river Evros, except for a section of land, where a fence has been built. In the Evros region the Greek army, the Greek police, the border police and Frontex units operate. The area is also monitored with thermal cameras and other high-tech equipment. A military border zone exists, where access to civilians is forbidden.

Most interviewees claimed that they were either arrested after their entrance in Greek territory via Evros River and while walking in the streets of the first villages they saw, or in the woods where they got lost or hid themselves. In some occasions, refugees claimed that upon their arrest they were made to  believe that they would be taken to a detention center.

‘We hid for two days in the woods. (…) At six o’clock in the morning four persons came. (…) They had guns and radios. They woke us up with punches and
kicks and asked everyone who had a mobile phone, to put it in front of them. They put all the mobiles in a plastic bag. They waved us not to talk. [’97]

‘They [the officers] told us not to worry, the police would bring us to the camp and there were many other migrants from Afghanistan and from other countries. (…) They put us in the van and locked the door. There was a small hole in the door. (…) We could see trees and bushes. My friend said: ‘They are taking us back to the border!’ I told him he shouldn’t worry because they had told us they would bring us to a camp [’98].   Shortly after, both Afghans were pushed back to Turkey.

Most of the refugees reported that upon arrest, they were transferred - in closed type vans with no insignia - to specific places, where they were detained for some hours (or even for more than a day), without being officially registered, nor having access to the asylum procedure or to the outside world and without even being given anything to drink or eat. Refugees’ thorough description of the detention places where they were allegedly held (some of them have reproduced a sketch of one of these places), does not match any of the official detention centers.

‘They brought us to the place with a big tree. It’s where they bring everyone they push back to Turkey. It is a place for animals, not for humans. A stable. There
is a wooden hut of maybe 12 x 3 meters. It might be used for keeping the police dogs.[’99]

‘There was an old building, but the door was closed. The door of the stable was open. It was not a proper door but a piece of wood. They had surrounded us in the middle of their cars. The police had parked their cars, on four different sides all around so we wouldn’t escape. The officers were standing next to us controlling what we were doing. We had to sit on the ground. There was no fence. There was a big field, a stable and a building. The field was full of animal excrements. There was a big wall and no one would try to escape, as there was a lot of police.[’100]

Many refugees claim that they were taken back to the woods and held in glades for hours, where people from other groups were also held, before being pushed back. Some refugees reported to PRO ASYL that not only were they transferred to the woods in vans, but they were also held inside the vans for many hours.

‘We waited for 12 hours: four with the van’s door closed and eight more with the van’s door open, but they didn’t let us get off the van. We couldn’t see anything. We were in the woods.[’101]

Many interviewees claim that they were searched, and on some occasions even forced to take their clothes off. Some refugees said that they were allegedly beaten if money was found on them. In all of the cases, interviewees claimed that they didn’t get back their personal belongings.

‘They took us with a van to a police station. Then, they body searched us. We even had to take off our clothes. The police took our mobiles, the SIM card, the chargers and the batteries. They ordered us to throw our clothes in the garbage. It was night when it all happened. Then they pushed us back to the Turkish side. (Dressed with our underwear)[’102]

‘This police knew everything. They even knew about where we are hiding our money sewing them inside our clothes. They took away our bags and threw them in a corner. Then they told us to undress. We were all naked. Then the officers took a knife and tore all of our clothes searching for money. 200, 300, 500 Euro – they took it all. Then they beat us. It was 11-12pm.[’103]

‘One of us asked them to give us our mobiles back and they beat him very badly. The good mobiles, among them an Apple, they kept them.[’104]

Many refugees alleged that upon apprehension or detention, they were asked specific questions concerning their nationalities, the number of people that were in their group and the exact place where they had crossed the river.

‘They didn’t keep our personal details, but they were writing down something: three Eritreans, so many Syrians, so many Afghans and so on.[’105]

On many occasions, they stated that the officers involved in their apprehension, detention or push-back operation, would make phone calls seemingly informing someone about them.
Refugees described officers involved in these operations, as ones wearing blue uniforms, military green and dark green uniforms. Allegedly, persons in plainclothes and others wearing full face masks were also involved in some cases. In one instance a person in uniform with the insignia of Germany (German Flag), witnessed the push back of two persons by Greek police in day light.

‘The police officers were wearing blue uniforms. The ones we see in the streets here in Athens.[’106]

‘There were 5-6 officers when they brought us back to the river. Their uniforms were of green colour (military green). It was obvious they were border police. Two of them had wooden batons in their hands. The officers that had caught us had been dressed in blue uniforms. They looked like the town police.[’107]

‘When we got off the van we saw some people wearing full face masks.[’108]

‘ The two officers who arrested us (Greek officers in blue uniform, ed.), and another one who was driving the second car brought us to the river. They took us
to one officer with a motorbike, dressed in military uniform. He checked me with his eyes from up to down and asked ‘Hazara?’ I noticed on his uniform the
German flag, black red and gold, while he was body searching me. (…) The ‘German’ was standing next to the river. When we arrived next to him, I implored him not to send us back to Turkey, we both fell on our knees. He punched me and my friend once in the face[’109].

Upon apprehension, detention or push-back, almost all interviewees alleged that they were ill-treated by the officers. They said they had been slapped, beaten with batons, punched and kicked on their body, on their head and on their face. In one case reported to PRO ASYL, a Syrian refugee was allegedly seriously bitten by a police dog upon apprehension, yet he didn’t receive medical treatment and was pushed back to Turkey. [110]

‘They pushed us towards the boat. Again the ‘German’ punched me and pushed me in the boat. (…) One of the men in the boat pulled us inside and pushed
us on the floor kicking us. My friend like me has worked as a translator for the ISAF Forces in Afghanistan. He was telling them again and again not to deport
us. They beat him more. When we arrived on the other side of the river, they beat each of us twice with the wooden stick on our backs and our legs. They said:
‘Go! Hide somewhere until night and go![’111]

‘The police took off all of our clothes, even my wife’s and my child’s. My child is 12 years old. A police woman hit my wife in the head. She searched all our belongings and my wife’s Quran.[’’112]  Due to this degrading and inhuman treatment, the couple concerned expressed their strong fear of ever entering Greece again. During the interview they were still suffering and in pain.

Many interviewees were allegedly intimidated and threatened. Some reported that when detained in a place like a kennel, officers unleashed their dogs towards them and just before seconds they attacked us, they called them back.[113]

“When they put us in the boat, one of the police officers told us in English that if we come back again to their country, they would send us back again. He took out his gun and pointed it to us. We heard the noise of the gun as he loaded it threatening us that if we would come back they would shoot us. ‘We will beat you. We will torture you.[’’
114]

‘The police had big dogs, which they unleashed against us, to scare us and they would then call them back, only seconds before reaching us and biting us. They had fun with us.[’115]

When taken back to the river, refugees told PRO ASYL that they were ordered not to make any noise or move and were allegedly threatened with guns. They were forced to enter their boat with the policemen and were turned back to the Turkish side. In many cases, interviewees reported that while being pushed back, the police had tied their hands behind their backs with plastic handcuffs. Many interviewees claim that they were held for hours and pushed back in groups from different places. In another case, an unaccompanied minor, claims that he was separated from his relative during the push-back operation and he later found out that his relative had been deported back to Afghanistan.[116]

‘When they left us on the other side of the river, we had our hands tied with plastic handcuffs. They cut the handcuffs only from one and gave him scissors to cut the handcuffs of the others.[‘117]
‘They aimed their guns at us and ordered us to be silent (...). ‘Ssssssssh’ they said. They were moving us like thieves, silently, hiding us. There was a small wooden fisherman’s boat. They put us in it - 30 persons - and drove back and forth, always threatening with their guns to keep silent.[’118]

‘The officers waved us not to make any noise. We know from others that they always do like that and that when there are Turks from the other side, they take
the people for a ride.[’119]


97         M.M. (24 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros on 17.6.13; Interviewed in Athens, August 19, 2013
98         G.A.N., from Afghanistan / pushed back once from Evros in June 2013 and twice from Lesvos in end July 2013 / beginning of August; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), September 23, 2013
99         R., from Afghanistan (with his elderly mother) / pushed-back from Evros in September 2012; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), January 6, 2013
100 H., from Afghanistan / pushed back from Evros in October 2012; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), January 4, 2013
101       M.M. (24 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros on 17.6.13; Interviewed in Athens, August 19, 2013
102       I. from Somalia / pushed back on 2.5.13 from Evros; Interviewed on the ship from Lesvos to Athens (Greece), June 10, 2013
103       G.A.N., from Afghanistan / pushed back once from Evros in June 2013 and twice from Lesvos in end July 2013 / beginning of
August; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), September 23, 2013
104       A.S. (36 years old) with his wife S.N. (30 years old) and two underage children, from Afghanistan / pushed back from Evros on
12.7.13; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), July 22, 2013
105       M.M. (24 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros on 17.6.13; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), August 19, 2013
106       N.N. (32 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros in June 2013; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), August 16, 2013
107       G.H. (with his wife and 4 children 3, 8, 11 and 14 years old) from Afghanistan / pushed back from Evros in July 2013; Interviewed
in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), September 17, 2013
108       M.A. (24 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros in May 2013; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), August 19, 2013
109       G.A.N., from Afghanistan / pushed back once from Evros in June 2013 and twice from Lesvos in end July 2013 / beginning of
August; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), September 23, 2013
110       H., from Syria / pushed back from Evros in 2013; Interviewed in Chania (Crete island, Greece), July 2, 2013
111       G.A.N., from Afghanistan / pushed back once from Evros in June 2013 and twice from Lesvos in end July 2013 / beginning of
August; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece), September 23, 2013
112       K. (with his wife and one child), from Syria
 / pushed back 7.7.13 from Evros; Telephone interview, July 28, 2013
113       M.S. (mother); M.H.S. (husband); A.R.S. (underage son), from Afghanistan / Pushed back three times / once from Evros in September 2012 and twice from Lesvos island in February 2013 and in April 2013; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), June 14, 2013. They are together with three other minor sons and a 6 months old baby girl with serious health problems.
114       M. (16 years old), from Afghanistan / pushed back from Evros in August 2012; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece),
December 20, 2012
115       R., from Afghanistan (with his elderly mother) / pushed-back from Evros in September 2012; Interviewed in Athens (Greece),
January 6, 2013
116       M. (16 years old), from Afghanistan / pushed back from Evros in August 2012; Interviewed in Mytilene (Lesvos island, Greece),
December 20, 2012
117       I., from Somalia / pushed back on 2.5.13 from Evros; Interviewed on the ship from Lesvos to Athens (Greece), June 10, 2013; See
also F., M. and I. from Somalia
118       R., from Afghanistan (with his elderly mother) / pushed-back from Evros in September 2012; Interviewed in Athens (Greece),
January 6, 2013
119       N.N. (32 years old), from Eritrea / pushed back from Evros in June 2013; Interviewed in Athens (Greece), August 16, 2013


7 November 2013