The respondent is a 23-year-old Tunisian man. At night, between the 6th and 7th of May, he left Edirne with another Tunisian man who is 26 years old. Around 4 AM they crossed the Greek–Turkish near Bosna. Once in Greece, the two men walked for about five or six days in the mountains. Then they walked on a paved road for about 30 kilometres, until they reached Komotini. They crossed the town at night time and kept walking along a highway that took them to Xànthi.
They then followed an old railway track going off-road for a few kilometres. When they crossed an unpaved road, around 4 AM, two men holding torches apprehended them near to Xanthi. “First, we thought that it was a robbery”, recounted the respondent.
The respondent stated that the two men pushed him and his friend on the ground, held their hands behind their backs and put them in handcuffs. The men cut the bags that the respondent and his friend were still wearing on their backs with a knife and took their only phone and supplies. “They ordered us to get up with our hands handcuffed but they didn’t help us”, said the respondent.
One of the men was wearing a black uniform and a balaclava. The other one had jeans and a green jacket. There was nothing formal to suggest that they were police. The officers spoke to each other in Greek and they talked in English to address the respondent and his friend. “They asked us if we were in a group or just the two of us and they were laughing at us”, said the respondent.
Then the men took the two men in the trunk of their pickup truck, which was parked next to the road, hiding in the trees. The truck was a D-Max Isuzu, with a green stripe running along the body. There was nothing written on it and the respondent could not see the colour of the vehicle, nor the license plate, because it was dark and he was forced to keep his eyes on the ground. The trunk of the truck was 1×1 metre, and there was no seat to sit on.
Themen locked all the doors of the car and left the respondent and his companion in the trunk, handcuffed, with no food and no water for about four hours. That morning, the morning of 17th May, they came back with a Syrian man. The respondent stated that they hit him with a tree branch, laughed at him and loaded him in the trunk of the truck. “This Syrian man was sick. He was coughing, exhausted, and he held his belly”, relayed the respondent.
Two other men wearing all black came and asked the respondent and his friend to show their faces. They took a picture of them with their phone while they were still handcuffed in the trunk. Those two officers stayed there for about 30 minutes, laughing and smoking. The respondent asserted that the two men in all black spoke to each other in English, and the officer wearing civilian clothes who apprehended them was also talking in English.
“I could understand a bit from what they were saying. They said that they brought cigarettes and tobacco and they laughed because we were scared when they apprehended us”.
Then the two officers who had apprehended them drove the three men “fast and recklessly” for about two hours on paved and unpaved roads. In the early afternoon, they got to a detention site, which the respondent described as a “big” police station. The respondent recalled that there was a Greek flag on the building and that there were some houses close to it but he did not know where it was. The respondent recalled seeing six white and blue police cars and some buses in front of the building.
Once at the “police station”, the officers took the handcuffs off of the three men. It was a multi-storey building but the respondent stayed only at the ground level. Inside there were up to twenty officers. Some were wearing a sage green uniform; some wore balaclavas and were in black uniforms with no sign, no logo, nor any flag on them. One officer was wearing civilian clothes (shorts, shirt, and a Covid mask).
The respondent stated that when they arrived, the three men were beaten by some officers wearing black uniforms. “They kicked us with their boots on our legs, faces, and stomachs. They even hold our hair to let the other officers beat us.”
Then, the officers took them into a room that was about 5×3 metres. “It looked like a cell, it was clean, there was no place to sit on, and the windows were dark, we couldn’t see through,” recalled the respondent. The officers forced them to get totally naked and searched them. The three men were taken to another room that looked “the same as the first room.” There was also an Iranian man who the respondent understood had been apprehended on his way to Thessaloniki.
After 15 minutes, the officers eventually returned to them their shirts, pants, and their shoes but without the shoestrings. The respondent explained that some of the officers wearing the black uniform talked in English to each other, some in Greek.
In the next few hours, the officers brought about thirty other people, including two women, from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There was one minor, about 11 years old and the age range of the group was between 11 and 50 years old. The people were denied food and water.
“The officer wearing the civilian clothes shouted at us when we were asking for food and water, he even got in the room and beat some of us. He was so violent.”
At one point, another officer wearing red sport pants, a black shirt, and glasses came into the room to distribute Covid masks to the people. The officers told the people that they would take their fingerprints and ask them to sign some paper but they never did.
After a few hours, all the people were put in zip ties, two by two, and taken to a big green and blue camouflage bus. Some had to sit on the ground. There was also a police car driving in front of the bus. They were driven for about two hours on a paved road first, then on an unpaved road, until they got to another detention site. The respondent said that there were at least twenty police cars parked in front of the building. The detention site was a ground-floor building with “dirty walls”, which “looked like an old factory or an old garage” and “seemed abandoned”.
Inside the building were two or three rooms. The people were taken, two by two, to the building, searched again, and put all in one room where there were already about twenty other men, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, their ages ranging from 20 to 50. The room was about 3×4 metres. The toilets were too dirty to be used and the people were denied food and water.
“The officers said that we have to pay five euros for a cigarette, and 10 euros for food. They were selling the food that they took before from one of us”.
There were six more officers. Three were wearing civilian clothes; one was wearing a sage green uniform without any sign on him; one was wearing a black uniform with the Greek flag on his arm; two were wearing balaclavas and black uniforms with nothing on them. The respondent said that the officers in black uniforms talked to each other in Greek and he could not hear the language that the other officers used.
“The officers in black uniforms kept on beating us all the time”.
Then, the respondent explained, all the people – there were around 55 now in total – were searched again, beaten and loaded in a green military truck, with six seats, no windows, but small holes on the sides. “We were crowded, most of us sat on the ground. One of the officers ordered us to take our shoes off and took them”. The whole group was driven for two hours on a paved road, then on an unpaved road until they got to the Evros river, in a location close to Dilofos.
There were four white Isuzu cars and 17 officers, all wearing balaclavas. Some of them wore black uniforms; some had civilian clothes. Two boats, about 2×1 metres, were waiting in the river at 50 metres distance from each other. On each boat were two officers speaking Syrian-Arabic.
The respondent stated that before loading the people on the boats, the officers wearing black uniforms ordered them to lay down on the ground on their stomachs and they beat them “randomly” and everywhere with plastic sticks. “They left the two women in pyjamas and beat them with a tree branch. They didn’t beat the minor but he had to lie on the ground”, recounted the respondent. The officers searched everybody again and loaded them ten by ten on the boats. “It wasn’t stable on the water. With any move we could drown”. In his boat, the respondent recalled that one officer was wearing a balaclava and civilian clothes and the other one had a keffiyeh on his head.
The officers transported all the people on the Turkish side, in a location near Kapıkule. The pushback happened at night time before 10 PM. When they were in Turkey, the respondent saw the Turkish army so he ran for one kilometre and hid in a mosque with some other people. “We saw that some were apprehended by the Turkish army, but we didn’t see what happened then for them”, related the respondent.
He eventually took a taxi with four other people, including the friend he was travelling with from the beginning, to go back to Edirne.