Skip to content
Support our work

One of the women army officers was laughing while we were taking our clothes off. She was laughing at us and saying, “Arab!”. By that time, we were half-naked.

Date & Time 2023-04-02
Location Evros River
Reported by Anonymous Partner
Coordinates 41.220136117178, 26.330863389997
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved no
Age 23
Group size 30
Countries of origin Morocco
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 24
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, insulting, gunshots, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 9 Greek-speaking men identified as army officers, 4 men wearing military outfits identified as army officers, 3 female army officers, 7 male army officers, one armed army officer on the surveillance tower, 6 Pakistani men who pushed the transit group back to Turkey, one Jeep in camouflage colour, one van

The respondent is a 23-year-old man from Morocco. The respondent was part of a transit group consisting of 24 people, primarily from Morocco and Syria. On 1st April 2023, the transit group crossed the Evros/Meriç river separating the Greek-Turkish border on a dinghy. The following day, at 7 am, the respondent was pushed back from Greece to Turkey alongside other 30 people. 

 

The respondent recalled that he was part of a transit group of 24 people. The transit group started walking around 3 AM from Meriç to reach the Turkish side of the Evros/Meriç River, which separates Greece and Turkey. While walking to reach the riverbank, the transit group encountered what the respondent described as Turkish army officers near a military base, who stopped the transit group to check their backpacks and reportedly stole some of the group member’s perfumes and lighters. 

The respondent explained that he and his transit group walked approximately 2,5 km to reach the river, where they found two dinghies that could contain 12 people each. Subsequently, the transit group split into two groups of 12 people to fit inside the two dinghies to cross the river. As they were approximately halfway across the river, the two groups reportedly heard gunshots from the Greek riverbank. 

Once they managed to cross and get out of the dinghies, the respondent saw nine men who reportedly “caught” another transit group who crossed the river before them. The respondent believed that these nine men were responsible for the gunshots. The respondent described these men as Greek army officers, although he did not give a description of their uniform and did not see any flag displayed on it. However, he stated that these Greek-speaking men were not wearing balaclavas to conceal their faces. 

The respondent recounted that to avoid being seen by these nine men, he and three other people who shared the same dinghy with him managed to hide in what he described as a ditch located between the Evros River and the army patrol area. From there, they could see that, among the nine men believed to be army officers, there was “the boss, probably the big guy there, who had a baton”. According to the respondent, this man described as ‘the boss’ repeatedly beat the remaining eight people who crossed the river in the same dinghy as the respondent because they were unable to find a hiding place. The respondent described the baton used by “the boss” as “wooden, tree wooden. It was around 2 meters and a half; it was really big”. He further stated that the beatings lasted approximately one minute. 

 

The only thing that I heard was “sit down, sit down”, and then I saw people getting beaten up with this baton.

[They beat the 8 members of the group] until the person who is getting beaten up is on the floor. Then the beating usually stops. They terrorize you, but they don’t want to kill you. 

They were hit in very specific places where you will never think about, going back.

 

The respondent recalled that he and the three other men reportedly hid from 6 a.m. until midnight. 

 

We were scared, and we didn’t want to be assaulted by the brutality of the army officers.

 

During this time, the respondent and the other three men with him encountered two Syrian women, aged 20 and 28 years old respectively. They invited the Syrian women to continue the journey with them, but they refused as they were “too scared, to the point that they said they wanted to go to the police”

 

After midnight, the respondent and the three men who were hiding with him started to walk through the ditch to reach the highway. The respondent recalled that while walking, they noticed the presence of surveillance infrastructure, such as infrared cameras and binoculars. 

 

The whole border is full of surveillance. 

 

They then climbed the ditch to get out and found themselves amongst agricultural fields, where they continued walking for approximately 2 km. Once they were close to a church, the four members of the transit group reportedly heard a voice in Syrian dialect that said: “Hey, guys. What are you doing there?”.

 

The transit group subsequently followed this voice and, almost immediately, two vehicles arrived on the spot. The respondent described the first vehicle as a camouflaged Jeep car, followed by a van “with approximately 30 people who were inside already”. He said the apprehended people in the van were of different nationalities, predominantly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, and various African countries. 

In each vehicle, there were two men described as wearing military uniforms who the respondent believed to be army officers. The four army officers got out of their vehicles and started beating the respondent and the 3 other members of the group. 

 

[one of the army officers] immediately hit my friend who had glasses. My friend with the glasses covered his face, but he still got hurt because he kicked him with his leg. I, himself, was beaten twice in my face with an elbow and in my stomach. I was kicked in my chest as well.

 

The army officers subsequently transferred the four transit group members to the overcrowded van where it was impossible “to even breathe”. The respondent explained that the van did not have any windows and there were only some “holes in this van to bring some air in”. They drove for what felt like 20 minutes to the respondent and he mentioned that during this period they stopped to load another transit group into the already overcrowded van.

Between 1 and 1.30 am, after approximately 20 minutes of driving, they arrived at what the respondent described as “a secret place”, which had no official signs outside the building. The respondent described this place as “a camp or a big cell” rectangular shaped, which had two separated doors at the entrance. The respondent added that “there was a room for women, a room for men, and a room for families”

This detention site was reportedly surrounded by crops and was located near a weekly clothing market.

The respondent reported that this detention site was run by many people, whom he described as army officers. The respondent recalled seeing ten army officers, among which there were three women, while the remainder were men. The respondent and his three group members were reportedly forced to undress.

 

If you don’t take off your clothes, as you are ordered, you will be beaten up. I took off my clothes, but they still beat up some people from the same group that I was in.

One of the women army officers was laughing when we were taking their clothes off. She was laughing at us and saying, “Arab!”. By that time, we were half-naked.

 

The respondent reported being robbed of his shoes, money, phone, and power bank by the army officers and added that the officers repeatedly asked who was leading the transit group. 

 

They look for people who are leading the group. So, they ask each individual that they catch if they were the “rebir”, which is the guy who usually leads the group. And in this case, when somebody admits or they make somebody admit it, they are usually beaten up and their ribs are broken. It’s very bad. But even if you are just one of the group, you will still get beaten up. Even if you are just led by somebody. 

 

The respondent and the rest of the group were reportedly very tired and managed to sleep for a few hours in a small room inside the detention site, which had carpets on the floor. Whilst being detained, the respondent and the other detainees were not provided with water or food and could not access the toilets. He further explained that while he slept, more and more people were brought inside his room. 

At 7 am that morning, the respondent was woken up and transferred to the same van they used previously, which was driven by the same two army officers. He said he was transferred to the van with around 30 other people.

According to the respondent, they drove for approximately 22 minutes to reach the river, where they saw eight other army officers and a surveillance tower guarded by one army officer armed with a gun. Near the river, the transit group was brought to a group of six Pakistani nationals, who pushed them back to Turkey.

 

We were transferred to the river. And near the river, we met people who were actually Pakistanis, but we believed that they worked with the Greek authorities.

They are kind of professional. I think their selection happens by seeing if they are strong physically and can do this job.

They get offered this job, and they get something back at the end of these 3 months approximately.

 

The transit group was subsequently transferred on a dinghy on the Evros River. Out of the group of six Pakistani nationals, two of them pushed the dinghy into the water, while the other four boarded the dinghy to lead the transit group across the river. 

Once they reached the Turkish side, the transit group walked approximately 1,5 km. They later encountered a man whom they paid 70 euros to drive them to Istanbul.