The respondent, a man of 26-years-old, from Palestine, was traveling with his sister in a group of 12 to 13 people, coming from Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. They were aged between 20 and 26. The sister of the respondent was the only woman in the group.
It was already dark when the respondent and his group left Edirne on foot. It took them about one and a half hours to reach Evros/Meriç River, located on the Greek-Turkish border. After midnight, the group crossed the river by boat and got to the Greek riverside. The respondent was not able to be specific about the point where they crossed the river, since they were guided by the smuggler.
The group was walking in a forest for about one hour when five men in uniform appeared and tried to catch them. The respondent, his sister, and two other men were apprehended while the rest of the group escaped and hid in the forest. The respondent identified those five people (one woman, and four men) as officers as they wore blue and black uniforms. “Those officers were actually searching for people on the move in the forest”, said the respondent. The group didn’t have the time to express the will to ask for asylum. “We were so afraid. They wouldn’t let us even talk”.
The officers started to beat the respondent and the two other men with branches from the trees and metal sticks while asking them in English where the other people from the group were. The respondent said that they were “beaten a lot”, for about 30 minutes. “They hit me randomly, my sister was screaming so much that the other ones from the group showed up”. Then, the officers apprehended all the members of the groups and started to beat them with metal sticks and branches, except the sister of the respondent. “The way they treated us was so racist and humiliating, My body still hurts where they beat me.”
The respondent couldn’t be specific about the time they have been apprehended, but he said that it was still night as the sun had not yet risen. The officers had a vehicle that the respondent identified as a black Mercedes van. There was no sign on it showing that the vehicle belongs to the Greek police or that it was a governmental car.
After they were beaten, the group was forced to walk in the forest. “The officers kept on beating us in our back while walking”, said the respondent. After 10 minutes, they got near a “highway”, the officers called someone and another vehicle arrived. It was a black Mercedes van with two other men. They wore camouflage pants, black jackets, black boots, and balaclavas. There was no sign to show if they were police officers or not.
After they searched the bags of the group and took all their belongings, the officers proceeded to a physical search. “They searched us even in the sensitive parts”, said the respondent. The officers took and kept everything they found: phones, supplies, power banks, and money. The respondent said that his sister was searched by a female officer who found 100 dollars on her and kept it.
Then, the group was loaded in the Mercedes van. They were crowded in the car and the drive was fast and reckless. It lasted for about 20 minutes, on an unpaved road. The car eventually stopped next to the river where there were already more than twenty other people who had been apprehended. They were Syrians and aged between 15 to 30.
Also, there were more officers: two or three on the riverside who wore camouflage clothes and balaclavas; two on a boat who wore civilian clothes and balaclavas. The respondent saw a white Nissan jeep as well. He couldn’t hear the language that the officers used between them, and he said that the officers didn’t talk to them. Later, another van arrived with a Syrian family of six people: three women, two young men, and one minor.
Before they put the people on the boat, the officers searched all the people again, then divided them into three different groups. The boat was 4 meters long and had paddles. The officers had stretched a rope from the Greek riverside to the Turkey side to make their way with the boat on the river.
“I was in the second group, said the respondent. We were about 12 people on my boat. We could all fit on the boat but if we did any move, we would have drowned”.
All of those apprehended were brought to the Turkish side of the river and left there. The respondent and his group walked about six kilometres through a forest. Then, they took a taxi to Edirne. They drove for about one hour. It was 7 AM when they got to Edirne.
The respondent was not 100% sure of the location of the pushback place but he said that he was sure on their way back to the Evros/Meriç River, they crossed the village of Doyran, which is very close to Orestiada.