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Every move you make, they hit you with the baton

Date & Time 2021-10-01
Location Praggi/Kurdu Köyu
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.32311612, 26.58559919
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 10 - 50
Group size 80
Countries of origin Palestine, Syria, Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 20
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), water immersion, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 10 officers in green uniform, some wearing balaclavas, 10 officers in black civilian clothes and balaclavas, some speaking Arabic; dark blue bus with metal grids on the windows

The respondent is a 30-year-old male from Syria. Close from Meriç, they crossed the border into Greece in a group of 15 Syrians, Palestinians, and Moroccans. Soon after, the respondent reports that they were apprehended outside Lavara on the 10th of January. One officer had detected them and then “many others” surrounded them. Reportedly, all of them were wearing green uniforms, and some of them wore balaclavas. At first, it was ten officers, then the respondent claims that more came, but cannot give an exact total number of officers gathered at the end. 

Reportedly with their guns pointed at the respondent and the rest of the group, the officers ordered them to get on their knees. They then ordered the group to undress and proceeded to search them for their phones. They took all phones from them as well as money and the rest of their belongings. 

Then the respondent reports that the officers ordered the group to embark onto a vehicle which the respondent described as a bus. While they got on it, the officers reportedly hit everyone with black batons. The bus drove for around one hour and they arrived at a detention site which the respondent describes as a small area, out in the open, surrounded by a fence. 

At this detention site, the officers again ordered everyone to undress completely and conducted body searches again, “even sensitive places”. The respondent claims that the female members of the group were searched as well, by male officers. While the group was undressing, the officers reportedly again hit those that were not complying quickly enough, with batons.

The respondent states that group had to spend almost three days out in the open and throughout this time, they did not receive any food or water. Some of them were very sick, one even started spitting blood, but they were denied medical assistance. When they asked for asylum, the officers reportedly laughed at them. 

The respondent states that every now and then, more people were brought in. In the end, a total of 80 or more people, from many different nationalities, were gathered at the detention site. Among them were approximately 20 women and several children. The age range was reported as between 10 and 50 years. 

Towards the end of the third day, some officers wearing the same clothes as the previous ones ordered all of the detainees to embark on a big, dark blue bus with metal grids covering the windows. This description matches the busses routinely used by the Greek police.  The driving is described by the respondents as very fast and reckless and lasted for approximately an hour again but the respondent is very unsure, saying he had lost any feeling for time due to his dehydration. Reportedly, all of the 80 people were crammed into this bus, and the respondent describes that it was so crowded that breathing was hard.

The bus eventually arrived at the Evros/Meric river. About 10 officers described as wearing dark civilian clothes wearing balaclavas were present, some of them were speaking Arabic. They were brutal: “every move you make, they hit you with the baton.” 

A boat had already been prepared. It was not very big, but the officers ordered 30 people at once to embark it. It started sinking after having made it only approximately 3 metres into the river. The officers therefore reportedly ordered the respondent and others to jump into the water, at gunpoint. Some of the group members were not able to swim, and the respondent saw them disappear in the river.

The first village the group encountered after their pushback was Kurdu Köyu.