People on the move wishing to reach Greece from Turkey are often subjected to pushbacks, an illegal practice used by State authorities to prevent refugees from seeking asylum in Greece. This is the story of two people who, twice, were pushed back to Turkey and prevented from claiming asylum in Greece. The following story aims to share the experience of the interviewed individuals in the most complete way; as much as possible, we used the individuals’ own words, some of which were edited for clarity. Names, details, and other information that could be used to identify any individuals were removed or changed in order to ensure full anonymity. This testimony was shared with us during an interview, conducted by Europe Must Act.
Trigger Warning: physical and sexual violence.
The first pushback
The first time, I was still pregnant when we arrived at the island. I was not feeling good, I had thrown up so much. I was so tired. The police took us. I told them that I feel tired, and I need to be taken to the hospital, because I fell on my stomach while we were walking in the woods. The police officer said that she will take me to the hospital and that the ambulance is coming. We went with her, she made us get into their car, and she brought us to the port.
Then, she told us to get out of the car. I saw the port and told her that I was in pain. She asked us to get out of the car again. When I said no, two policemen came, they lifted me up and got me outside the car. I cried, I was really sick and tired because of the journey. There was another boat in the sea, so they took us to another side of the bank, when they put us in a boat and took us to the middle of the sea. They searched us. They took our phones; they also took our backpacks and money.
The second pushback
The second pushback happened later in the same year. This time the fisherman in the sea saw us before we landed on the island. He called the police and he stayed there. When we landed, we entered the woods. The police was already waiting for us on the mountain. We tried to hide from the police. They searched for us and eventually they found us.
They brought us back to the place where we landed. They wanted to put us back on the same boat and take us back to the middle of the water. However, the water started coming into the boat. Now the boat was perforated, but they still tried to take us all and get us into the coast guard boat.
The coast guard boat was bigger, so it could not reach the bank. They tied our boat to theirs, and they were still pulling us even though water was getting into our boat. They got us on their boat, we were still in the middle of the water. Then they put us in line, both men and women, and started searching us everywhere, even our private parts.
Afterwards, they were calling us one by one, so they could beat us. They hit us with batons everywhere without looking. They hit me with a baton on the hands and feet. They hit everywhere! After that, I spent at least 3 days without being able to see with one of my eyes, because it was so swollen. When they were done searching and beating us up, they put us back on the boat in the water and pushed us. They pushed us into the sea, and they left when they saw other people coming to look for us.
It was not the first time that they took us. I was in the lifeboat when they brought us to the middle of the sea for the first time. That time they had two lifeboats on the coast guard boats, so they put us in there. The police searched us when we were on the coast guard boat. The police searched my private parts, and took money from me. I had a chignon [hair bun], so the man pulled it to see if I was hiding money in my hair. They took the baby from my hands and just threw the baby in the boat. They made me undress the baby, so the baby was completely undressed. They searched everyone.
They even looked in the mouth. They forced me to take off my shoes. They put their hands on private parts, on the kids, on the babies, everyone in front of other people. We were forced to undress in front of everyone. They do it to make sure that there’s nothing left.
They took our phones and our backpacks. I had a small backpack with the diapers for the baby. They cut the diapers to make sure that there wasn’t any money. They beat everyone, but the baby. They beat men and women; they even beat a pregnant woman.
The pregnant woman started having contractions on the boat, so the ambulance had to come and take her when we landed in Turkey. They took us and brought us to the police station, where we stayed for 3 days. After that, they took us to a big prison, but the police there let us go.
The individuals interviewed, whose story we share here, were eventually able to, finally, make it to Greece. Unfortunately, their experience is too similar to those of thousands of others trying to get to Greece and Europe to seek safety and protection. We at Europe Must Act believe in holding countries and governments accountable for actions that put the lives of migrants at risk and deny them their fundamental human right to seek international protection. Europe must do better.