The respondent is a 26-year-old woman from Morocco who had already experienced 3 pushbacks, the most recent one from Orestias (GR) to Karakasim (TR).
The respondent reported that she started her journey on April 2nd, 2022 in Edirne, heading to the border with a group of other people. She described how the group walked for 4 hours until reaching an area next to the Evros/ Meriç river.
The respondent described that she travelled with a group consisting of 6 people, between 20 and 33 years from either Morocco or Syria. The respondent mentioned that she was the only female among them. The plan of the group was, as stated by the respondent, to first cross from Turkey to Greece and then eventually travel from Greece to Bulgaria, but they got apprehended in Greece. The respondent described how the group left Edirne at 5 pm and walked for 3,5 hours until the arrived to a gas station named “Pacific petrol”. After passing that gas station, the respondent stated that they continue to walk for an additional 30 minutes until getting to the side of the river where they started preparing a boat which they had carried in their backpack. Reportedly, it took another 30 minutes before they crossed to Greece.
The respondent stated that they crossed the river at around 9.30 pm by using a inflatable rubber boat (blue from the outside and white on the inside) of 3 by 2 metres in size. Once on the Greek territory, the respondent recounted how they ran as far as possible fearing of being apprehended by the Greek authorities.
The respondent described that the group spent all night walking in the mountains and farmlands until 5 in the morning. Once the sun rose, the respondent stated that they hid in a forest close to the city Petrota, close to the border to Bulgaria. The respondent was afraid of getting lost and she mentioned that she checked her phone’s maps application to see where they were. The respondent mentioned that there was a disagreement within the group which road to take and the the group split up. The respondent continued to travel with two other Syrian men. Together with these two men, the respondent mentioned that they continued walking until 9 am, walking on a very bumpy road in the mountains. At some point, as described by the respondent, they reached a paved road and a city on the left side, a few kilometres away from them. The respondent recalled that they crossed the road, which was leading to that mentioned city, and hide in the woods by the road, as they noticed a lot of cars were passing by.
The respondent described that she and the two men were sitting and resting 200 away from a road that leads to the town of Pentalofos waiting for the night to come. The respondent recalled that around 10.00 am the group noticed two cars standing on the side of the road. One of the cars, as described by the respondent, was white pick-up and the other car she saw was a white big car. Both of the cars, as described by the respondent, had blue stripes at the side and a logo with olive leaves and a balance in the middle, having the word “Police” in English written below the insignia. The respondent identified the cars looking similar to the ones below:
The respondent mentioned that when they saw the cars they tried to hide but four uniformed men came directly to their hiding spot and surrounded the respondent and the 2 others. The respondent described that the 4 men that left the car were dressed in dark blue jackets and pants. On this uniform, the respondent stated that “police” was written in different colours on their shoulders, in English and a word in Greek letters and “police” was also written in English on their chest. The respondent stated that the uniformed men talked English to the respondent’s group and Greek among them. The respondent mentioned that the uniformed men were carrying handguns.
The respondent described how the uniformed men made us walk to the side of the road, to a place that was not visible from the street. The respondent saw how the uniformed men kicked the two male Syrians on the shoulder and in the back. “I was screaming and crying from the horror of the scene I saw. Someone yelled at me and slapped me on my face.” Then, as reported by the respondent, the uniformed men instructed the group to sit on their knees and hand over their phones and hit the two young men using the plastic stick. The respondent stated that they stayed here for 30 minutes until a white van, without any logo or insignia arrived. The respondent identified the vehicle to be the same as the picture below.
The respondent described how they were put in the trunk of the van where there was no place to sit. The respondent was also not able to see outside and was also not sure how many officers were in the car.
After a 30-minutes fast ride, as described by the respondent, they reached the detention site. The respondent recalled the detention site as an old white one-floor building, surrounded by a 2m-fence, with a yard in front of it. Next to the building the respondent saw caravans, in front of these people were washing clothes. The respondent stated that besides these few homes and caravans there was only a forest next to the detention site. The respondent saw a Greek flag attached to the building’s entrance, but she did not see other official police or military insignia.
At the detention site, the respondent saw 5 men dressed in sage green uniforms (jackets and pants). Two of them, according to the respondent were carrying a rank on their shoulders and she saw there was a blue and white logo on their forearms. The respondent identifies the uniform to be the same as in the image below.
The respondent described that when they arrived to the detention site they were instructed to stand next to a wall where the group was searched. Here, as recalled by the respondent, they had to remove their shoelaces and their belts. The two Syrian men, as stated by the respondent, had to remove all their clothing until they were totally naked and searched them openly in the yard. The respondent saw that the two men were beaten and abused by the uniformed man with sticks and kicks.
The female respondent recalled that she was instructed to raise her hands and one uniformed man began to search her, also touching her sensitive body parts. She also mentioned that she was grabbed by the neck and forced not to move.
Then, the respondent’s said her backpack was taken, and the male POMs clothes were returned.
After being searched, the respondent described how they were loaded in a cell. The respondent described the floor of the cell as being very dirty and with a bad smell. The cell, as reported, was 3 by 5 meters in size, and had metal bunk beds and a dirty toilet with water leaking onto the floor of the cell.
When the three arrived, the respondent saw that there were already 15 other people detained in that cell. The respondent stated that they were held in that cell for over 14 hours. Every hour, as reported, 4 to 5 more people were added to the cell, sometimes 2 hours passed but then more people were brought to the detention site. During the time of detention the respondent mentioned that a total of 60 people were held in the detention site. The respondent recalled the nationalities as Moroccan, Syrian, Yemeni, and other African countries which the respondent couldn’t distinguish. Reportedly, all of them were between 20 – 50 years and 4 women were among them. The respondent couldn’t see any minors but many young people were present so some could have been underaged.
The respondent stated that no water or medical assistance was provided – “We were so thirsty, we asked for water, but a man in sage green uniform told us to drink from the toilet”.
Reportedly, some of the uniformed men took money from the people held in detention, some took their clothes and all phones were confiscated.
The respondent reported that on the next day, 04.04.2022, about 2 – 3 am the people detained were instructed to move outside and enter a van. When they left the cell, the respondent saw between 10 to 20 uniformed men outside of the detention site to take the detained people to the river. The respondent described these uniformed men as either dressed in blue marine, sage green or black uniforms or dressed in civilian clothing but wearing balaclavas. For the respondent it was hard to identify the uniforms in more detail as they were using flashlights and it was dark.
However, on the blue uniforms the respondent could see that it had “Police” written on the arm sleeves and some Greek letters on the back. The respondent couldn’t identify any logo or insignia at the black uniform, besides that all of them dressed in that specific uniform were wearing balaclavas.
The respondent described how the people were instructed to enter in two white vans which looked like the picture below. Up to 35 people were loaded in each van. The respondent described the driving as fast and reckless, first on a paved road, further on an unpaved road where the van started shaking.
According to the respondent, the ride took 10 minutes to reach a point next to a big forest and a small river, more time to get to the big river (Evros / Meriç). At the pushback site, the respondent saw 9 men; 4 of them in civilian clothing, 2 in black uniform with balaclavas, 3 wearing the described camouflage uniform with a Greek flag stitched to their arm sleeves and armed with big weapons. The respondent stated that they spoke Greek among each other but the men in black with balaclavas spoke Arabic.
The respondent stated one of the men dressed in black with balaclava told the respondent “If you have anything hidden, take it off before we find it. Otherwise we beat you”. The orders given by the men dressed in black, were to remain silent until being searched. Then, the respondent stated that they crossed a small river to the river’s edge where 4 other men in civilian clothing appeared, all fluent in Arabic with Syrian dialect. The respondent saw 13 men either in different uniforms or in civilian clothing were at the site. Here, the respondent stated that the POM were searched again and male men in uniforms searched the respondent and touched sensitive body parts. “He threatened me with a baton when he found the money and tried to hit me”.
At the river, the respondent saw a boat, a camouflage green rubber boat with paddles. The respondent recalled that the time between arriving at the river site, being searched and further loaded onto the boat, 1 hour passed.
The respondent described that the boat took 8 people at a time. The first group of people, according to the respondent, was taken all the way across the river with the boat. The respondent’s group was reportedly instructed to jump and swim from the islet in the middle of the river or to directly jump into the river. The respondent stated that the water level was deep and that another male POM helped her because she couldn’t walk and swim.
Once on Turkish territory, the respondent reported that she had to remove her pants because they were soaked with water and they would have delayed her walking. She stayed with sports sweatpants and started walking.
The respondent recalled that they walked on an unpaved road for 1 hour, following the signs until they arrived to a small village. The respondent does not recall the name of this village. From this village the respondent stated that the group continued to walk for 30 km in 6 hours to Edirne.