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"They strip searched us naked in the forest."

Date & Time 2021-09-18
Location Samos
Reported by Mare Liberum
Coordinates 37.77607897, 26.64773914
Pushback from Greece
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age unknown
Group size 19
Countries of origin Somalia, Sierra Leone
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved unknown
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), insulting, sexual assault, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved minimum 6 police officers, Coast Guard officers

The respondent left Turkey by boat on September 17th around 10 pm with a group of 19 people from Somalia and Sierra Leone. In the group were several minors and a highly pregnant woman. They arrived on Samos in the morning of September 18th. They hid in a forest in a rocky area close to the shore

“After some time […] we saw them. We were almost asleep. The whole night-long journey, it was too long, so we were sleepy. [They said]: “Everybody […] Hands up!”

Six police officers were present at the moment of apprehension, dressed in dark blue trousers and shirts, with green “military caps.” The respondent reported that they had pistols on the side of their trousers and immediately told the transit group to “bow down” and not look at them. 

“They [made] us lie on the ground flat, with the nose or face on the ground. Everybody, but the pregnant woman, she could not lie on the ground, so she had to bow down. They did not allow anybody to lift their head.”

The officers asked the transit group how many people were in the group, to which they responded that there were 19 people. The respondent recalled that the police did not believe that only 19 people were in the transit group. 

“They [the officers] were talking to us nicely. They said they want to help us. They said ‘Don’t worry, we will take you to the camp to help you.’ They started asking questions like: “Why did you leave Turkey?’ Three or four [people] they asked. […] They were asking: ‘Why did you want to come?’ I said I wanted to come here for safety. ‘Why not Turkey?,’ ‘Turkey is not safe for me and I have education to pursue.'” 

The transit group was made to wait like this for a long time. The officers continued to pressure the group, asking if there were others from their group that had escaped. The officers started to shout and insult the transit group, taking their phones and money. The respondent recalled:

“They strip-searched us naked in the forest. They first started searching the clothes, everywhere. They searched everything. Even if they found money they thought you have more money. You undress and they searched your private parts including your inners.”

The same method applied to everybody, including the pregnant woman. They searched everywhere. There were only male officers present.

After the officers had completed the search, the transit group was allowed to get dressed again, and then were forced to lay back down.  All of their belongings were confiscated. 

“My shoes were in my bag, because when we arrived I had to remove my sandals because of a wound, so I put them in my bag. So when they took the bag they took everything.“

The transit group was kept in the forest until late at night. More officers arrived at some point, but the respondent was not able to identify how many as they were not allowed to look at them [the officers]. After nightfall, a large boat with a Greek flag and writing arrived. The transit group was taken aboard the large boat by a small blue speedboat. The respondent was not able to see much more than this, as throughout the process they were told to bow down.

“We heard them [walking] and asking questions. They said ‚This border is closed‘. This was the last thing they were telling us.”

The group was then left at sea in life rafts. The exact location is unknown. 

“We were left in two life rafts. In the first one was the pregnant woman and it took her long to enter. So it took them longer than us to leave. Even then if they didn’t chose you to board the life raft you could not lift your head to watch. They didn’t beat anyone, but one guy who was resisting [to board the life raft] was pushed with force. They hit him on the head seriously. We stayed [in the life raft for] a very long time. […]”

The Turkish Coast Guard later picked them up and brought them to Dikili. Both life rafts were picked up separately, but the group later met again in Dikili. In Turkey they had to stay with the police for a night and then all the adults could leave.