Testimonial: Push-back of a big group from police-custody in Isaakio, Greece on 11 September 2022

On 11 September 2022 we were informed about around 80 people, imprisoned in the Evros region. The people reported to have been seized and robbed of their belongings be the Greek border guards. They had managed to hide one of their phones and established contact with Alarm Phone. They shared their location and sent videos of their prison cell. It turned out they have been held at the Isaakio border guard station. The Greek authorities lied to us and always claimed to not know about the group.

We immediately published the information on Twitter, as we tried to increase pressure on greek authorities in order to prevent another brutal pushback.

We also blurred and published the videos from inside the border guard station:


Due to past experiences we feared the worst. Many different voices over the past months told disturbing stories about attacks and inhumane treatment by Greek border guards in the Evros region. People are detained under inhuman conditions, are robbed and beaten, then driven to the border region, stripped of their clothes and tortured by Greek border guards and militias consisting of third country nationals, most likely migrants themselves who try to find their way out of misery by becoming the henchmen of the Greek authorities.

After a while we lost contact with the people, however, relatives informed us that the whole group was brutally beaten and pushed back. Weeks later, we managed to re-establish contact with one of the survivors, who told us in detail what happened:

«I am J.Q., I have the Syrian nationality but as a family we come from Naltschik which is now Russia. A lot of Cherkessian people migrated to Turkey or Syria. I lived in Syria for 6 years. When the war started in Syria, we moved to Turkey and now we have been in Turkey for about 8 years.

The experience we made at the Turkish-Greek landborder I want to report about, happened when we tried to leave Turkey due to the difficult living-conditions and the discrimination we faced on different levels here. We were a small group of 5 people, my mother, my older sister and her son, a friend and me. We informed ourselves before, we knew it is a very tough journey and we knew that also people might loose their lives. 

It was the 8 September when we crossed the border, by crossing the river. After that we walked for 4 days through the forests, avoiding any contact. We made 50-60km into the Greek mainland, when we were finally caught by the police. This was close to noon on 11 September. They had their guns out and they were shouting at us in Greek, no one of them spoke English. They took us to a kind of military prison. That was the place we sent you later the pictures and video from. 

They brought us into a small, dirty and empty prison cell. At noon when we arrived, there were only 15-20 people inside. But over time they collected in this room more and more people, until it was really completely overcrowded. We shared the video with you around 4pm. The number of people you see in the video you have to count 3-4 times that to have the complete number that was finally there when they started to take us out. We stayed there from 11 September around noon until the same evening around 8 or 9pm. 

The police had seized us. They took away everything from us: mobile phones, money, all belongings in the bags. We gave it to them out of fear, but some people tried to hide something. They got beaten up heavily. In the prison cell we could hear their screams. Inside the cell we saw injured people with blood running from their head, still bleeding. I was lucky, maybe also because I was translating they didn’t beat me up.

There was one young woman there she had managed to hide her phone. Everyone was seized and so they usually took all phones from the people but she had managed to hide it. Me and my sister could convince her that we need to reach out for help to the outside world and to tell them what is happening here. Then I contacted my brother who then reached out to you.

We did not get food – but this was not something I was thinking about. I was much more worried about what would happen next. 

When it was dark, around 8 or 9 pm they forced us to enter into vans. There were multiple cars. We were at that point of time at least 100 people. They had taken the shoes from us. Only the Syrian women still had shoes. All men were without shoes and also the afghan women had no shoes anymore. They brought us with these vans close to the border. The last part they went without lights and they stopped before reaching the border. You know, the Greek authorities are afraid to go too close to the Turkish border. They handed us over to the militias.

There is a Syrian militia and there is a well-known person, it is said he has the Syrian and the French nationality and everyone just calls him “Mike”. Mike was there in that night. He was the only one of them who carried a real gun. Besides that he had a long stick, which he used often. The others also had sticks. Like everyone, police and militia, he was masked. He was behaving like the boss of the militia. Mike spoke a very bad English, but he avoided speaking arabic in front of us. With the other militias he whispered in their ear. 

They searched again if we still had something they could steal from us. They seized us, while they did that they shout a lot, they wanted to scare us. Most of the people tried to give anything out of fear. There was one guy who had a wrist-band. It was something not expensive at all, it maybe had just a personal value for him. But they got very angry that he did not give it. They beat him up so badly. I cannot forget how he screamed. They recognised some people who had experienced push-backs before, they said: “I saw you before.” 

You know, there is a lot of things people say about these militias. Most of them are like us. They do it to somehow get out of there. I heard they get offers to do this for 3 months and then to get for 20 days a paper to stay in Greece and they use this paper then to get out of Greece. I had the feeling only “Mike” was doing this for pleasure. He seemed to enjoy beating people and mistreating them. The others still tried to behave like human beings – even if it was them who forced us to the boats.

There wasn’t only us, there must have been also another group near. The militias and the police communicated with walkie-talkies. You could hear that there were more also in a distance. 

They took us to the river and forced us onto small rubber boats, 10-12 people on each boat that was made for 5-6 people. With these boats they brought us to a Turkish island in the river. The distance to the Turkish shore was short, maybe only 20 metres. But we had to walk through the water to get there and it reached until our chest, we had no shoes and the river had a stream. So we had to make a chain to cross it, so we don’t loose someone to slip and to drown.

The Turkish soldiers were also not helpful, even though much less violent then the Greeks. They were nevertheless rude, they were insulting us, some threw little stones on the people as well. But there were no hard beatings on the Turkish side. 

We took a taxi back to Istanbul – normal price for this distance would be maybe 80 Euro. They took 250 Euro. Everybody makes business out of the suffering of the people at the border. I still pay back the debts from this journey.» 

Once again, his witness confirms countless other testimonials received from this region. All of them report about an infrastructure of violence and death against people on the move alongside the landborder between Turkey and Greece. It is an infrastructure financed, tolerated and legitimized by the European Union and its cruel migration regime.

In a previous report three survivors of pushbacks at the Greek-Turkish landborder spoke about the same practices and the conclusion remains the same:

 «What if not this, are crimes against humanity? There is a clear handwriting and system in these violent practices. They happen coordinated and well-organized and need direct cooperation between the different units and institutions involved. These border crimes are a result of political processes – practically enforced by the Greek state, wilfully supported and legitimized by its main partner, the European Union.»