On the 25th of April at 8 pm, together with two men from Morocco, aged 27 and 30 years old, the respondents crossed the border near the Turkish town of Üyüklütatar. When the group arrived in the Greek territory, the respondent saw that a drone with red lights was circling above them. The drone followed the group for around 30-minutes. Five minutes later, around 8.30 pm, the group was apprehended near the Greek town of Sakkos.
The respondent described that they were trying to hide in a dry river bed in-between farmlands. He recalls:
“Suddenly, I saw a big flashlight coming from the south and the flashlight was pointing exactly where we were hiding. I started seeing men coming toward us. We didn’t try to move or make any sound but they were getting closer and closer. Then, men started screaming and telling us to come out.”
The respondent saw seven men all wearing balaclavas. Three of the men wore black uniforms with no logos or insignia and four men wore civilian clothes. The men started screaming “out out” and the men in black uniforms pointed their guns at them (gun identified by the respondent as similar to image 1). When they [POM] came out of hiding the men started kicking and beating them immediately. The men in civilian clothes were hitting the POM with plastic batons. The beating continued for about ten minutes.
After 10 minutes, they told the group to sit down and give up their phones. When they sat down, the beating continued. The respondent saw three cars, which, according to him, were the cars used by the uniformed men that apprehended them. He saw an olive green land cruiser (Image 3), a civilian black old model Skoda (Image 4), and a black Ford pickup truck (Image 2). Because he was forced to keep his face to the ground the respondent was not able to identify any logos on the car. Upon request, the respondent identified the cars as being similar as pictured below.
After 20 minutes, an unmarked white Mercedes van arrived (identified by the respondent as pictured below – Image 5). The respondent and the other two men had to walk on an unpaved road to reach the van. One man, wearing a civilian t-shirt, camouflage pants, and a balaclava came out of the car and talked to the six men that apprehended the POM in Greek. The POM were then loaded into this van.
The respondent stated that they were brought to a detention site. The ride was fast and took around 10 minutes. It was around 9 pm when they arrived at the detention site. The respondent described the area as a one-floor building with dirty walls surrounded by a “big yard and surrounded by a fence. There was a big light lighting up the yard. The area was surrounded by forest. There was a junkyard in the back. There were caravans and houses approximately 500 meters from the fence of the detention site. There was one paved road in front of the detention center.” At the entrance of the detention site, the respondent saw a Greek flag on the fence.
The respondent recalled that there were five men at the detention site. One was the man that brought them there and four men were wearing sage green uniforms; a jacket and pants with black boots. These uniforms, as stated by the respondent had “written police in yellow letters on the left side of the chest with the same logo on the shoulders with Greek letters and a Greek flag”.
Upon request, the respondent identified the uniform as seen in Image 6 below.
Inside the building, the respondent saw something that he described as a big trash bin, and next to it he saw many backpacks; a box filled with Turkish water bottles, and food. The officers told the POM to put their bags there and walk toward the wall. Then, two men, speaking English, told the POM to face the wall upon which they frisked them. The officer that frisked the respondent told him something which he couldn’t hear, then, as described by the respondent, “he held my head and hit it to the wall and asked us to remove the pant belts and shoelaces”. This took around 10minutes.
It was around 8/9 pm, as per the respondent’s recollection, when they were brought to a cell. The respondent described the cell as being 5 by 3 meters big.
“The ground was dirty and there were four bunk beds with no mattresses. The walls looked old and there were several names written on them. There was a dirty smell inside that from the toilet. There were two empty cells and we were the first to get in there”.
The respondent was detained here for one day. During his stay, he described that during the day more people were brought in. At the end of the day, he recalled that there were around 70 people detained from Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Sudan. There were two women and six minors (between 15 and 17 years old) from Syria and Afghanistan. While being detained, the respondent didn’t sign anything, there was no translator present, and no fingerprints or pictures were taken. He was also not given water or food.
One man, wearing a black jacket and civilian pants opened the cell and told them to leave. This man was holding a branch and when people left the cell he was hitting everyone with this branch on their back. The man was not hitting the women but he was hitting the minors. At the end of the hallway, the respondent saw four other men wearing civilian jackets and camouflage pants. The men were escorting the POM to two vans. While walking to the vans, they were beaten with the branches, which according to the respondent happened, “to make us walk fast”.
Outside, the respondent saw 13 other men in different uniforms. He described three deep blue uniforms; a jacket and pants with written police in white letters on the chest, and a Greek flag on the arm; six men wore civilian clothes, “sport pants, civilian jackets and balaclavas” and they were holding tree branches; four were wearing a black uniform with nothing written on their uniform. All the men at the detention site wore balaclavas.
Image 8 men in black uniform without insignia similar as pictured here
The respondent described that the POM were escorted to two white unmarked vans that had no license plate at the back. The respondent identified the car as similar as pictured below. Inside the van, the respondent was with 30 other people. The respondent described that the ride was fast, reckless, and “bumpy’.
After 40 minutes, they arrived at the pushback location. When he was taken out of the car, the respondent saw a big forest on the side of the river and a small yard before the trees started. He also saw that the other white that he saw at the detention site arrived at the push back location. Everyone was taken out of the trunk of the car and forced to form a line. To enforce this line, the POM were kicked and hit with tree branches. The respondent stated that there were about 70 people; out of them, two women and six minors (between 15 and 17 years old) from Syria and Afghanistan. He stated that there were people from Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Sudan.
At the pushback location, the respondent saw ten men that he referred to as “officers”. Six men in civilian clothes drove with the white vans to the pushback location. He also saw four men in green camouflage clothing with a Greek flag on their arms similar to pictured image 9. The four men in green uniforms were holding a big gun and talking Greek. Upon request, the respondent identified the uniform and the gun as being similar as the ones pictured below.
The men in civilian clothes spoke different languages. The respondent knows Arabic and Kurdish and recognized that the men in civilian clothes spoke Kurdish and Arabic with a Syrian dialect.
The respondent stated:
“They told us that we had to give them everything we had. If they find something after they search us, they will beat us. They told us to keep silent and stay in line to be searched [..]”.
Women were searched by men and everyone had to give up their shoes. The respondent said that after he was searched, he was again kicked and beaten with the branch.
From here, the respondent stated that people were taken to an inflatable gray boat that was white from the inside. The boat was three meters long and one meter wide. Two men were paddling the boat. Every time they brought nine people to the other side. The respondent was in the last group that was pushed back. He recalled that there was one hour between arriving at the pushback location and the actual pushback. He described that the boat was not stable and that they were forced to leave the boat in the middle of the river.
After the respondent arrived in Turkey, he started looking for his friend. When they were reunited, they walked for approximately thirty minutes when they arrived in a village. From here, they followed a paved road where they saw a road sign that had written Kiremitcisalih and Edirne 65 kilometers on it. They continued walking. On their way, a Turkish man gave them some bread and water. In the morning, after walking for 17 hours, they arrived in Edirne.
In Greece, the respondent was not allowed to talk and was not able to ask for asylum.
“We didn’t [ask for asylum] we couldn’t talk. All that you have to do to stay alive is follow their orders or you will get beaten and especially when you talk”.