The 26-year-old unnamed man, who spoke to the British newspaper the Guardian about his story, had been granted asylum in Germany before he found out in 2016 that his 11-year-old brother had gone missing around the border from Turkey to Greece while trying to follow him to Europe.
The man then travelled to Greece’s northeastern Evros region where his brother was last heard of, telling the paper that “All I could think about was my brother.” While conducting his search in a small town by showing people a photograph of his brother, three Greek police officers arrested him and took him to a detention centre where he was strip-searched, had his identification and asylum papers confiscated, and he was locked up in a cell with 50 other detainees.
Then, late that night, they were taken to the border with Turkey and placed in a small boat in the Evros River, where they were picked up by the Turkish military hours later.
After going to the German embassy in Istanbul to recover his documents, he was made to wait three years while making 11 unsuccessful attempts to again reach Greece. Eventually he made it to the Greek capital Athens where he received help from an NGO named Human Rights 360. Through the help of a lawyer, he was able to return to Germany late last year and had his residency status reinstated in May this year.
The man still has not heard any news of his disappeared brother, however, and waits in hope. Meanwhile, he has accepted the filing of his case against Greece, stating: “There are so many people who are oppressed and face great injustice…others should know about this.”
A researcher who has worked on his case at the London-based Global Legal Action Network, Amanda Brown, told the Guardian that his story is “an emblematic and aggravated example of Greece’s clandestine deportation apparatus” from which “even his EU asylum status, which Germany had granted him, couldn’t protect him.”
She stressed that it is “inhuman and manifestly unlawful” that “A legally present foreign national is apprehended, solely due to his race and national origin…stripped of his documentation, subjected to an enforced disappearance, and violently expelled overnight to a country he did not come from. He is then forced to endure repeated instances of border violence until he can recover his documents and return home years later.”
Over the past nine years of the ongoing Syrian conflict, millions of refugees have flowed through Turkey and into Europe until the 2015 migrant deal between the EU and Turkey. After the EU failed to deliver on its part of the deal, including the provision of money and other benefits to help Turkey keep the refugees from entering Europe, Turkey finally opened its border to Greece in February this year to let the refugees make their passage.
Since then, the Greek border guards and police have been accused of committing numerous human rights violations against refugees attempting to enter Europe, including pushing back and shooting at refugee boats, detaining and torturing them at secret black sites, and stripping them naked and stealing from them before sending them back across the border.
In August, it was discovered that Greece had secretly expelled 1,000 refugees and abandoned them at sea to fend for themselves.