On 28th August 2020, a group of four Moroccans and two Palestinians crossed the border to Greece with a rubber dinghy on the Evros river in the area of the Turkish town of Meric. On the Greek side, they continued by foot for four days. On the fourth day, early in the morning when it was still dark, they were apprehended by six men in black clothes wearing balaclavas. Four cars were hidden behind some trees, one was big with big wheels stated the respondent.
The masked men started shooting into the ground with guns around the group, yelling “get on the ground, get on the ground!”. When the transit group complied, the men approached and started beating them with batons and kicking them on the head, face, torso, legs. Then the men told them to get up and get into one of the cars, it was white. When the transit group entered, each of them was beaten one more time with the baton.
The respondent had previously lived in Germany for four years and is fluent in German (the testimony was taken in German). He recounts that at least two of the masked men who caught them in the forest spoke German with each other. The other four spoke Greek.
One of the masked men asked the group where they were from. When one of the people replied saying he was from Palestine, one of the other masked men (Greek speaker) approached him aggressively and said “I’m a Jew. I hate Palestine!”. The masked man then proceeded to kick the Palestinian man in the face.
The respondent did not reveal his German language skills to the masked men out of fear, but he remembers them talking about him and the others, referring to them as rats and terrorists. He describes that they were laughing while hitting them, seeming to take enjoyment from the episode. The respondent also explained that at his previous transit attempt around two months ago, he saw two unmarked cars, Volkswagen and Opel, with German license plates at the detention site (next to several cars of the Greek police).
The masked men took the group to a detention site around thirty minutes away, which some of the other people detained there told the respondent was located in Alexandropouli. The respondent said it was a police station and they were detained in a big room. Before they were taken into that room, they were told to get undressed:
“Like the last times, they told us to get naked – completely naked. And they kept hitting us with a baton while telling us to undress. They were hitting us everywhere.”
When they were naked, the transit group were told to enter that big room. There was no furniture whatsoever, only one toilet which was dirty and stank. The only water they could drink was from that toilet.
“It stank really bad, but you still have to drink it because the thirst is just too strong.”
Inside the room between 110 and 120 people had been detained already, many nationalities mixed. The respondent talked to several Syrians and Afghans. Both men and women were present, everybody completely naked. One of the women had tried to hide her phone in her vagina. During a body search, it was found and she was subsequently beaten heavily. The others had to carry her as she could not walk anymore.
The respondent described that there were 16 or 17 officers present at that site in total. These “officers” were wearing blue clothes, like police uniforms, but there were no flags on them. He is not sure whether there were any numbers or signs of them, only that there was no flag. All of them were wearing black balaclavas, he could not see a single face.The respondent describes that they were laughing when hitting the people:
“They were laughing while they were hitting us. Laughing so much. No normal person can do that. Maybe they are taking drugs, cocaine, I don’t know – no normal human can do that. No way.”
The detainees were kept in the facility for the whole day. At around 18:00, some of the people in blue clothes came to the room and threw a bunch of clothes in there. Everybody had to get dressed, not really taking their own clothes but whatever they could find. They were not given back their shoes.
When they all were dressed, eight or nine men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas came, carrying guns. They told the detainees to go outside. A big white vehicle was waiting there, and one of the masked men was standing next to the door. Around 50 or 60 people from the detention space were crammed into this vehicle. Everyone was hit with a baton by the masked men standing next to it when they entered the vehicle. According to the respondent, this transfer of 50/60 people occurred two times to move around 120 people. The rest of the group had to wait for the same vehicle to return.
The authorities drove them to the river, with the lights of the vehicle turned off. The respondent says that at this point, the masked men were talking to them very nicely. One of them was asking him “where did you want to go, Albania? Try again next time!” They also told them not to speak.
The masked men readied one small dinghy and drove the people across, seven or eight at once. There were two people handling the boat, the respondent things they were either Afghans or Pakistani. When he reached the Turkish side of the river, the respondent started cursing the men on the Greek side. They walked for a while and found some houses. They knocked on several doors and were given water, bread and slippers. They went to a bus stop. They didn’t have any money so they started asking people for money and after a while had enough money for the trip to Istanbul.