“The minor - only fifteen - had his head slammed against the wall over and over by the men in sage green uniforms. The violence lasted around 15 minutes.”

  • Date and time: April 11, 2022 22:30
  • Location: From Didymeticho, GR to Gemici, TR
  • Coordinates: 41.3476492, 26.4956372
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 76 person(s), age: 15 - 45 years old , from: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, African
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 38 males and 1 female; 2 dressed in a sage green uniform; 11 dressed in ​​short-sleeved, dark blue uniforms; 2 wore all black along with balaclavas; 6 dressed in dark blue, long sleeved uniforms; 2 wore camouflage with a Greek flag on the arm; and 16 wore civilian clothing and balaclavas. 1 blue and white Jeep; 3 unmarked white vans; 1 unmarked black truck.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, personal belongings taken
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

On the 11th of April near the town of Didymeticho, Greece, a 30-year-old Algerian man and 75 other male and female people on the move (POM) were pushed back from Greece to Turkey. 

On the 8th of April, he set out for the Turkish border with five other POM – including three men from Syria, one other man from Algeria, and one minor from Iran. After crossing the border, the group of six headed west – navigating their way through the Greek mountains and forests until reaching Lagos nearly three days later. While resting near the outskirts of the town around 2:00 AM, the POM heard sounds of a vehicle along the unpaved road quickly followed by a blinding light. What trailed closely behind were seven men dressed in three distinct uniforms. Three reportedly wore sage green including a logo on the arm and ‘Police’ written in small, white letters in Greek (see Image 1); two wore dark blue trousers and shirts with ‘Police’ written in English on their chests (see Image 2); while the remaining two were dressed head-to-toe in black and wore balaclavas (see Image 3). Parked near to them was one blue-and-white jeep resembling a Greek police vehicle (see Image 4) along with a black, unmarked pick-up truck (see Image 5). 

Image 1: Green-uniformed Greek border guards
Image 2: Short-sleeved Greek police uniform
Image 3: men in unidentified black uniforms
Image 4: Greek Police Jeep
Image 5: Unmarked Black Ford Truck

They yelled at the six POM in English – demanding that they come out of hiding. When in plain sight, they were forced to their knees and told to put their hands behind their heads. Immediately after, the three men in green uniforms and the two in blue began kicking and beating the POM with metal batons. When the respondent tried to ask for asylum, they reportedly ignored his request and kicked him. The beating was reportedly random, hitting all parts of the men’s bodies. When the beatings subsided, they were forced to hand over their phones and were questioned about their crossing point as well as their nationalities. The respondent described that “we only answered what they asked us and [then] told them we want to go to Europe. For that, [the man in the all-black uniform] started kicking me.” They were left like this – beaten, cold, exhausted, and humiliated – for 45 minutes. 

At approximately 2:45 AM a white van appeared at the apprehension spot. The vehicle was reportedly old, unmarked, and had no license plates. The six POM were loaded into the van from the back. The trunk measured around three-by-two meters wide. There were no other travelers in the car. The doors closed, and the van took off fast down the road for 25 minutes. 

Image 6: Unmarked White Van

When the vehicle stopped, the six POM were unloaded. Outside, the respondent reportedly saw an old, white building protected by a three-meter fence. In the front stood a Greek flag. Mixed in with the rubbish was a pile of backpacks, water, and food. 

Near the front, the respondent confirmed that two additional, unmarked white vans were present (see Image 6). Other than a few residential houses and caravans, the building was surrounded only by forest. When they entered the building, they were met by seven additional uniformed men and one uniformed woman. All dressed in the same sage green uniform worn by three of the seven men at the apprehension site (see Image 1). The respondent reported that when he got out of the van, “[the men in sage uniforms] asked us to step near to the wall of the building.” With gloves on, the men approached the POM and asked them to remove their trousers, underwear, shirts, and jackets. Standing there fully naked, the men in sage green then searched the six POM from head to toe. And then every piece of their clothing. 

The men in sage addressed the POM in English. Unable to understand everything being said, the respondent’s friend turned to him – imploring him to translate what was being told to them. When the respondent tried to explain, one of the men in sage punched him in the face. Still naked, the beating continued. The minor – only fifteen – had his head slammed against the wall over and over by the men in sage-green uniforms. The violence lasted around 15 minutes. When the search ended, the POM were given their money back along with their shirts and trousers. Their jackets and shoes, they were told, would remain with the men in uniform. 

Thereafter they were led into a small, five-by-three meter cell. The faces of 70 other POM filled the room. Among them were reportedly people ranging from 15 to 45 years old from Morocco, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and likely somewhere from the African continent. Four women and around 17 minors were present. Inside the respondent reported that the walls were “old and dirty with names written on them.” Two bunk bed frames were set up, yet had no mattress to accompany them. The air was filled with the smell of urine. 

The time was around 4:00 AM on the 11th of April. 

Nearly 17 hours later, the group of 76 was released from the cell. Outside of the detention site stood nine men dressed in civilian clothing and balaclavas and two other men in a dark blue uniform (see Image 7). The same two white vans were still parked near the entrance of the detention site (see Image 6). Around 33 people were loaded into each van. When asked about the conditions of the vehicle, the respondent reported that he could hardly breathe. He continued, describing that, “we had to cover the women and try to not let them get hurt or beaten, [but] one of the men wearing a blue uniform slapped [a] young girl to get her to move faster.” Although packed with people, the van’s driver reportedly drove extremely fast. Nothing outside was visible. 

Image 7: Long-sleeve Greek Border Guard uniform

Around 30 minutes later the engines quieted and trunk doors swung open. Outside, the respondent reported a small, unpaved road surrounded by a large forest near a one-meter fence and a boat near the river’s edge. On the other side of the fence, everything was dark. Around 13 men in uniform stood waiting for the vans – four of whom were dressed in dark blue (see Image 2), two in camouflage with a Greek flag on the arm (see Image 8), and the remaining seven wore civilian clothing with balaclavas. One man in civilian clothing reportedly wore a green jacket with a Turkish flag on the arm. Those in camouflage reportedly carried AK-74s with them (see Image 9). 

Image 8: Greek Hellenic Army Uniform
Image 9: AK-74

The men in masks told the POM to lie on the ground in a line and remain silent. When addressing the group, the men in civilian clothing and balaclavas reportedly spoke in Arabic with a Syrian dialect. The POM were then ordered to crawl towards the boat and stand in a line. One by one, they were, again, searched. 

Before the search, one of the men in civilian clothing reportedly told the respondent to “please give everything [you have hidden] or you will get beaten again.” The men in civilian clothing then went down the line. The respondent handed over 50 Euros. The men in dark blue uniforms gathered the items in a pile at the end. Females and males were searched by the uniformed men. While searching each person, the men in civilian clothing reportedly kicked the respondent “any chance they got” while also beating him with a branch. One of the masked men then punched him in the face. When the respondent’s friend couldn’t understand what was being said, he turned again to the respondent – asking him to translate. The men in civilian clothing responded by taking him out of the line and beating him with a metal road while kicking him for nearly five minutes. 

A camouflage rubber boat with a Greek flag on the side waited near the edge of the river. One hour later – when the beatings subsided – the POM were loaded into the boat by nine people at a time. Using paddles, the two drivers navigated the boat to the middle of the river where the POM were then told to jump. The water reached around mid-chest. Some of the POM could not swim. The time was approximately 10:30 PM on the 11th of April. 

Once he reached Turkish soil, the respondent headed into the darkness with no sense of where he had landed. After a short walk, he found his friend. Together, they continued into the forest. A way in, they came across a farmer. When the respondent tried to ask for help, the farmer reportedly pushed him. The two men continued forward through the farmland hoping to, at some point, reach Edirne. In another small town they asked for food and water. The local refused, and the two POM pushed forward. 

Two days later, they reached Edirne. 

During the entirety of their detention in the detention site, they were offered no food, water, translator, or medical support. Neither fingerprints nor photos were taken.