She started her journey on April 2nd, 2022 in Edirne, heading to the border river with a group of other people. They walked for 4 hours until reaching an area next to the Evros river. They then walked along a street alongside the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
The group consisted of 6 people, between 20 and 33 years and from either Morocco or Syria. The respondent was the only female among them. Their plan was to first cross from Turkey to Greece and then eventually Greece to Bulgaria, but they got apprehended in Greece. They left Edirne at 5 pm, walked for 3, 5 hours to a gas station named “Pacific petrol”. After passing that station, they walked an additional 30 minutes until getting to the side of the river where they started preparing a boat which they had carried in their backpack. It took another 30 minutes before they crossed to Greece.
At around 9.30 pm, they crossed the river by using a paddle rubber boat (blue from the outside and white on the inside) of 3 by 2 metres in size. Once on the Greek territory, they ran as far as possible fearing being apprehended by the Greek authorities.
The group spent all night walking in the mountains and farmlands until 5 in the morning. Once the sun rose, they hid in a forest close to the city Petrota, close to the border to Bulgaria. The respondent was afraid of getting lost and so checked her phone’s maps application to see where they were. Some in the group told the others that they would take the road to Bulgaria, as it is closer than the road to Thessaloniki. They couldn’t agree on which road to take so the respondent left the group with 2 other Syrian men. They continued walking until 9 am, walking on a very bumpy road in the mountains. They reached a paved road and a city on the left side, a few kilometres away from them. After crossing the road to the other side, which was leading to that mentioned city, the respondent and two others decided to hide and stay in the woods by the road, as they noticed a lot of cars were passing by.
The respondent and her traveling companions were apprehended in this spot on 3rd of April at about 10 am, in a forest 200 metres away from a road that leads to the town of Pentalofos.
The people on the move (POM) were apprehended by 4 men dressed in dark blue jackets and pants. “Police” was written in different colours on their shoulders, as well as in English and Greek letters. “Police” was also written in english on their chest.
The respondent could recognize the uniform from the picture below.
These uniformed men arrived in two cars, one white pick-up and the other one a white big car. Both of the cars had blue stripes at the side and a logo with olive leaves and a balance in the middle, having the word “Police” in English written below the insignia.
The respondent identified the cars looking similar to the ones below:
The uniformed men were armed with two handguns which the respondent identified looking like the one in the following picture:
The respondent and the two men were sitting and resting, waiting for the night to come so they could continue walking at night. They were hiding in a place covered by trees from all sides.
They noticed two cars standing on the side of the road and first thought that it was just a regular patrolling police car. They tried to hide but the uniformed men came directly to their hiding spot and surrounded the respondent and the 2 others. They spoke English to the respondent’s group and Greek among them. The uniformed men made them walk to the side of the road, to a place that was not visible from the street. They kicked the two male Syrians on the shoulder and in the back. “I was screaming and crying from the horror of the scene I saw. Someone yelled at me and slapped me on my face.” Then the uniformed men asked them to sit on their knees and hit the two young men using the plastic stick.
All phones were taken. The group of 3 stayed for another 30 minutes until another car arrived. The vehicle was a white van, without any logo or insignia. The respondent identified the vehicle to be the same as the following picture.
They were put in the trunk of the van, inside there was no place to sit nor other people. The respondent couldn’t see how many officers were in the car. The driving itself she described as very fast, it took 30 minutes.
After half an hour, they reached the detention site. The building was an old white one-floor building, surrounded by a 2m-fence, with a yard in front of it. Next to the building were caravans, in front of these Greek citizens washing clothes. The detention site is visible from their point of view. Besides these few homes and caravans there was only a forest next to the detention site.
At the building itself was only the Greek flag attached on the building’s entrance, but no other official police or military insignia.
At the detention site, there were 5 men dressed in sage green uniforms (jackets and pants). Two of them were carrying a rank on their shoulders, there was also a blue and white logo on their forearms. The respondent identifies the uniform to be the same as in the image below.
After arriving at that place, they were taken out of the trunk, stood by the wall and the uniformed men began to search them. They asked them to remove their shoelaces and their belts. They further forced the two Syrian men to remove all their clothing until they were totally naked and searched them openly in the yard. They were additionally beaten and abused by the uniformed man with sticks and kicks.
The female respondent was asked to raise her hands and one uniformed man began to search her, also touching her sensitive body parts. She was grabbed by the neck and forced not to move.
The respondent’s backpack was taken, and the male POMs clothes were returned.
After that, they were loaded in a cell. The floor of the cell was very dirty and smelled bad. It was 3 by 5 meters in size, and had metal bunk beds and a dirty toilet with water leaking onto the floor of the cell.
When the three arrived, 15 other people were already detained in that cell. During the time of detention 60 people in total were held in that cell. Thor nationalities were Moroccan, Syrian, Yemeni, and other African countries which the respondent couldn’t distinguish. All of them were between 20 – 50 years and 4 women were among them. The respondent couldn’t see any minors but many young people were present so some could have been underaged.
They were held in that cell for over 14 hours. Every hour, 4 to 5 more people were added to the cell, sometimes 2 hours passed but then more people were brought to the cell.
No water or medical assistance was provided – “We were so thirsty, we asked for water, but a man in sage green uniform told us to drink from the toilet”.
Some of the uniformed men took money from the people held in that cell, some took their clothes. All phones were taken.
On the next day, 04.04.2022, they were brought to the river in order to push them back from there. It was at night, about 2 – 3 am and very cold.
Between 10 to 20 uniformed men were outside of the detention site to take the detained people to the river.
They were either dressed in blue marine, sage green or black uniforms or dressed in civilian clothing but wearing balaclavas. For the respondent it was hard to identify the uniforms in more detail as they were using flashlights and it was dark.
Two among them, both in sage green uniform and also the ones who opened the cell, asked the respondent and the others to get out of the trunk. They were also wearing balaclavas.
The blue uniform had “Police” written on the arm sleeves and some Greek letters on the back.
The respondent couldn’t identify any logo or insignia at the black uniform, besides that all of them dressed in that specific uniform were wearing balaclavas.
She identified the uniforms to look like the ones in the following pictures.
They were using tree branches, but the respondent couldn’t see any weapons.
The vehicles were two white vans, which looked like the picture below.
Up to 35 people were loaded in each van. The driving itself was fast and reckless, first on a paved road, further on an unpaved road where the van started shaking. It took 10 minutes to reach a point next to a big forest and a small river, more time to get to the big river (Evros). Three people were at the site wearing military camouflage uniforms with a Greek flag stitched to their arm sleeves and armed with big weapons.
The respondent recognizes the uniform and weapons to look as from the following pictures.
Nine men in total were at the pushback point, 4 of them in civilian clothing, 2 in black uniform with balaclavas, 3 wearing the described camouflage uniform. They spoke Greek among each other but the men in black with Balaclavas spoke Arabic.
He told the respondent “If you have anything hidden, take it off before we find it. Otherwise we beat you”. The orders given were to remain silent until being searched. They further crossed a small river to the river’s edge where 4 other men in civilian clothing appeared, all fluent in Arabic with Syrian dialect. In total 13 men either in different uniforms or in civilian clothing were at the site. All the POM were searched again. The respondent was wearing pants and underneath sportswear, a jacket and sneakers.
The male men in uniforms were searching her and touched sensitive body parts. “He threatened me with a baton when he found the money and tried to hit me”.
A boat, a camouflage green rubber boat with paddles, was already prepared. 8 people were taken across the river at once. Between arriving at the river site, being searched and further loaded onto the boat, 1 hour passed.
The first group of people was taken all the way across the river with the boat. The respondent’s group was asked to jump and swim from the islet in the middle of the river or to directly jump into the river. The water level was deep. Another male POM helped her because she couldn’t walk and swim.
Once on Turkish territory, the respondent had to remove her pants first because they were soaked with water and they would have delayed her walking. She stayed with sports sweatpants and started walking.
She walked on an unpaved road for 1 hour, following the signs. In order to get some help from someone. She arrived at a small village and walked from there to Edirne. She walked for 6 hours, in total about 30 km.