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"It was the worst thing I have ever seen"

Date & Time 2022-04-14
Location Evros River
Reported by Anonymous
Coordinates 41.087090407688, 26.311392797982
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved no
Age unknown
Group size
Countries of origin Palestine, Syria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
Police involved Unsure of exact number of officers but the respondent reported that the group was found by Greek officers, wearing dark blue uniforms with a Greek flag and that some were wearing black masks, had a radio (walkie-talkie), and were armed with large guns.

Disclaimer: The respondent did not know the specific date of when they were pushed back, just that it was in April 2022

The respondent is a 25-year-old Syrian man who reports to have been pushed back from Greece to Turkey. The respondent said he crossed the border from Turkey into Greece at the beginning of March 2022 but does not remember the exact day. The respondent reported that he crossed the border at around midnight from Edrine (Turkey) and reached Greece by crossing the river in a small metal boat. He reported that he travelled in a large group which had been separated into smaller groups of 7-10 people per boat and there were around 15 groups total. The respondent recalled that in his boat there were only men, around 17-40 years old, and most of them were Syrian and one was Palestinian. 

The respondent reported once he had crossed the river into Greece with this group, they spent the next 32 days travelling through the mountains and away from roads to try to reach Kavala. They had to avoid roads and supermarkets to avoid the police finding them. The respondent said that he and his group were very cold and very hungry, eating less than one meal a day. The respondents reported that the smugglers had told them the journey would only take 15 days.

The respondent recalled that the group (seven men, six Syrians and one Palestinian, ages 26-40) had reached a location sent to them by the smuggler. He does not know exactly where they were but described seeing a river, a bridge and a small village. According to the respondent, the group was spotted by a Greek man walking his dog who said hello and left. The respondent believed that this man called the police on them after leaving. In the early hours of the morning, the respondent recalled that they saw people who they believed to be the Greek police and tried to hide. The respondent said that after an hour, they were found by men he called “officers” whom he described as wearing dark blue uniforms with a Greek flag and that some were wearing black masks, had a radio (walkie-talkie), and were armed with large guns.

The respondent said that the officers beat them and handcuffed them, the respondent also recalled that the officers also kicked and pushed people in the group and pointed a gun at them. The respondent added that they were handcuffed with their hands behind their back and the “officers” forced people’s heads down. The respondent reported that they were not as violent with him and suggested that this may be because he was the youngest in the group, as he was 23 at the time. The respondent reported that the officer grabbed him by the arm and he struggled a lot against them. The respondent described losing hope at this moment, as after spending 32 days walking through the mountains with very little food and water in the cold, they were still caught. 

According to the respondent, as they were being taken, the group said to the “officers” that they wanted to be taken to a refugee camp as they were asylum seekers. The respondent reported that the “officers”  ignored this and were shouting at them, asking them if others were hiding nearby.

The respondent reported that the “officers” spoke to each other in Greek. The respondent reported that as they were being arrested at this location, his group and the respondent were body searched and all their belongings were taken, including phones.

The respondent reported that after this, the “officers” took them to a police van waiting on the main road. The respondent described this as a police van that had a fence inside to separate the driver’s seat and the back of the van where they were placed which had metal seats. The respondent also reported that they were taken to a police station and body searched again and their belongings were not returned. According to the respondent,  they were at the police station for around 4 hours and were not given any food or water and did not have access to a bathroom.

The respondent said that the group were picked up at the police station by a different group of “officers” they believed to be Greek authorities, and put all seven of them in a small van with no windows. The respondent said that these “officers” had logos on their shoulders but he does not remember what the logo looked like. The respondent also reported that the group were uncuffed and forced to sit on the floor of the van. When shown pictures, the respondent said that the van was similar to an old minivan but smaller.

The respondent recalled being driven for about 4-5 hours to the Greek-Turkish border and along the way, more people were picked up. The respondent recalled that it was too dark for him to say exactly how many or describe them but he thinks they were women and children. According to the respondent, the car had one driver and an “officer” next to him. The respondent believes there was a police car in front of them and another behind them.

The respondent reported that the “officers” handed them over to an unidentified group of around ten men who were in plain clothes, all black, masked and wearing black army boots. The respondent recalls that it seemed like the “officers” had authority over the masked men. The masked men made the group remove all their clothes and they were left in their underwear (it is unclear from the respondent if this includes also women and children). The respondent reported that the masked men told them “Last warning, if you have any money, give it to us or we will kill you”. The respondent recalled that one of the men did not give them 50€ and when they searched him and found it, four of the masked men beat him up, repeatedly kicking him “until he was close to death”. The respondent said, “It was the worst thing I have ever seen”.

According to the respondent, all of the group’s clothes were put in a pile and burned but the respondent reports that he was able to grab a t-shirt and trousers before this so he had some clothes on. The respondent reports that after the masked men beat the man, they put the group and others onto a metal boat on the river. The respondent reported that some of the masked men spoke clear Arabic and Greek, they were fluent in Arabic and translating for the Greek masked men.

The respondent reported that one of the masked men was steering the boat and armed with a knife and gun to keep the group under control and in case they were caught by Turkish authorities. The respondent recalled that the boat journey to Turkey took around 25 minutes and they were not caught by Turkish authorities. The respondent reported that when they reached Turkey, they walked barefoot, along a long and tough road which cut their feet until they found a taxi to take them away from the border.