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My son was crying so much, he was freezing and so afraid of the river

Date & Time 2020-03-11
Location Close from Tychero
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.02976507, 26.33193824
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 3 - 50
Group size 65
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt
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 water immersion, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved 6 in Greek uniform, 2 in civilian clothes, 8 wearing black clothes and balaclavas (all speaking Greek) and 2 in civilian clothes and balaclavas (not speaking at all)

On October 28, the respondent crossed the Evros river by boat close from Ipsala at the Turkish/Greek border with her 3 year old son and 10 men. 

When they arrived on the Greek side, the group separated. The respondent, her son and her boyfriend continued alone by foot. They walked for several days and on the sixth day, at 4pm, they arrived in Komotini and asked locals for food. They received some food and continued on their way. Around 30min later, they were stopped by two men in dark blue police uniforms who had arrived in a Greek police car and had “police” written on their backs. The officers asked if the respondent or her boyfriend spoke English. When they said no, the officers handcuffed the respondents boyfriend but not the respondent herself. The officers then made a call and started to search them. About 15min after the call, a big white vehicle came, carrying two men in civilian clothes. The officers removed the handcuffs and the men dressed in civilian clothes searched the respondents boyfriend but not the respondent herself. They took his phone and money (100€) but not his bag. The respondent and her family were ordered to get into the car. It did not have any seats and no windows. They drove for around 20-30min. The car stopped directly in front of a door of a detention site. Since the vehicle had no windows, the respondent could not see the building from the outside. However, previous reports allow the assumption that the respondent referred to the Tychero border police department.

When they entered, they found themselves in a hallway where three officers in Greek police uniform were searching several other men. The respondents boyfriend too was ordered to undress and was searched while the respondent was taken to another room and searched by a female officer. The officers took all their belongings from them – the bag containing clothes, their power bank and some more money. Then they were taken into a room filled with around 65 people. The respondent remembers Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Syrians, Egyptians, Afghans, and three other children as well as three other women. 

They spent 1 or 2 hours in that room which the respondent believes was around 5x5meters in size. It had no furniture or anything and was so crowded that most people had to stand. Others got up so the respondent and her son could sit down.

Then, three men wearing black clothes and balaclavas carrying sticks (the respondent described as branches from a tree) and guns entered – in addition to the three uniformed officers – and told the whole group to exit the facility. There were three big vehicles in front of the door but the respondent could not describe details as they were not allowed to look up. The families and women were ordered to get into one of the vehicles, the single men in the other two. It did not have any windows but it did have seats. The masked men drove very fast and recklessly, the whole ride lasted for around 45min. 

The cars stopped in the forest next to Evros river. There were five or six other men in black clothes and balaclavas waiting. The whole group was searched again, including the women, all by men. There was one light-grey rubber dinghy waiting as well. Two men dressed in civilian clothes and wearing balaclavas drove the dinghy but did not speak anything so the respondent could not guess their nationality. In groups of around 12 people each, they were taken into the boat. The boat then took them a few meters into the river but only to stop very soon. Then, one of the two drivers got into the water and signaled everyone else to get out of the boat as well. The water at this spot reached until the hip of the adult men. They had to cross the rest of Evros by foot, the water getting up to the chest in the middle of the river while there the current was really strong. The respondent describes that they had to walk carefully so as not to get carried away by the current.

“My son was crying so much, he was freezing and so afraid of the river”. 

On the Turkish side, they walked for about 15min when they were apprehended by Turkish soldiers carrying machine guns. The soldiers told the families they could leave but ordered the single men to cross back to Greece. 

The respondent and her family walked a bit further and eventually found a taxi that took them to Istanbul.