The respondent is a 26-year-old man from Morocco who was pushed back from Greece to Turkey at the Evros/Meriç River border area during the Ramadan period in April 2022. The respondent was apprehended at approximately 11 PM in Orestiada, along with three other men from Morocco.
The transit group crossed the Evros River at 6 AM and waited until 10 PM before continuing their journey in Greece. The respondent said they were outside a city and that there were mountains in the background. They were unsure of which direction to go and walked on the main road. He explained that they saw a police car in the distance and so they hid until it passed by and then continued to walk until they saw a bridge. At the top of the bridge there were approximately 7 officers which the respondent believed to be police officers as they had ‘police’ on their uniform but as it was dark, he could not see their uniforms clearly. One officer was reportedly wearing a balaclava. He further explained that the transit group wanted to wait to check what was happening before continuing but one member of the group did not listen and continued to walk ahead. When the transit member got to the bridge, one of the officers was waiting underneath the bridge. The respondent speculated that either the member of his group informed the officers he was with 3 other people or that perhaps the officers had spotted the group from the bridge as it was approximately 200 metres away. The officers reportedly called for the group to “come here, come here” but the transit group ran into a nearby field and hid in the grass. The same police car that had passed by earlier drove into the field after the group and used the car headlights to search for them. The respondent explained that the officer with the balaclava found one member of the transit group and began to beat him with a baton on his legs and arms. When another member of the group saw the officer he got up but the officer then hit him in the back with the baton. The respondent said he was not beaten at this point of apprehension but “I got beaten later.”
The 3 members of the transit group were taken back to the bridge on foot with the masked officer, which was about 30 mins after the first member of the transit group was apprehended. At the bridge, there were three men described as wearing plain clothes and also bearing batons. The respondent stated that they were ordered to lie on their stomach with their hands behind their heads whilst the officers searched through their possessions. He said he was kicked in both his legs by the officers, with one officer crushing his back so he would be flatter on the ground. He described how their backpacks were checked and their phones, power banks, money, shoes, and jackets were confiscated. He also added that their food was burned so they would have difficulties carrying on with their journey. Whilst their possessions were being taken, the transit group was struck three or four times (each person) with the baton. The respondent said they were allowed to take their backpacks back but were beaten when doing so. When asked if he had asked to claim asylum, the respondent said there was no possibility to do so because if they spoke, they were beaten.
Approximately 15 mins later, what the respondent described as a huge military car arrived, which they were put into the back of. One person drove the vehicle “really fast” for an estimated 20 mins. There were no windows so the transit group did not know where they were being transported to. They arrived at what the respondent referred to as a military base which has a building inside of which people are detained. At this detention site there were two officers, described as wearing coffee-coloured camouflage uniforms and covid masks. One of the officers took the drawstrings from the transit group’s pants and any jewelry or watches they had. The respondent said they had some money in their pockets but it was confiscated. Another officer brought the transit group to a room to strip search them. They were reportedly searched one by one and forced to squat to ensure they were not hiding anything. After the strip searches, they were allowed to take back their things and were left in their boxers only. The respondent said his friend’s sim card was broken.
The transit group was then led to a room that was a few metres away, and what the respondent recalled was a “very dirty place and not clean”. 5 people were reportedly already in the cell and they had two blankets. The member of the transit group who was first apprehended at the bridge took one of their blankets so that he and the group could share the blanket. According to the respondent, every 10 to 15 mins, five or six people were put into the cell and said it was like “a hunt day”. Some people were put into the room naked. When asked to describe the surroundings, the respondent said it was a huge cell with a toilet which smelled terribly and there were also clothes in the toilet. They were denied food and water and the respondent recalled how one of the members in his group, in excruciating pain from the beating he had sustained in his legs, “was begging them for help for medical stuff,” but his pleas were ignored by the officers.
In the end, the detention room was full with what the respondent estimated to be 70-75 people. Most people were Moroccan but the respondent said there were some Algerian, Kurdish, and people from many countries detained. Additionally, there were two women, one with a husband and kids (their ages unknown) and the other with a husband. They were apparently from Sudan, and the women were reportedly not beaten. The respondent described that there was another detention room and at 5 AM the following morning they heard the cries from two men believed to be from Pakistan, who were being beaten by the officers. He said that they were being tortured and that these “two people suffered too much”. When they were being transferred from the detention site, the respondent said he saw the two men after the beating “with some scars and some blood”.
After spending the night in detention, the respondent recalled that there were 7 officers wearing dark green camouflage uniforms and wearing balaclavas to take them from their cells at 7 AM. The group of 70-75 people was separated into what the respondent described as two military trucks, but he could not say how many officers drove the vehicle as they were crammed in the back without windows. He added that when they were being put into the vehicle the officers circled them so they could not escape.
The journey from the detention site to the river took an estimated 15 minutes. When they arrived at the river, the respondent stated that there were approximately 15 men in green camouflage uniforms with balaclavas and an estimated 50-60 people who had also been apprehended by the authorities. Here, they were reportedly checked a third time and one officer said to them ‘if you have money give it to us without any problem because if we find it, it’s gonna be a problem’. The respondent and a member of his transit group had €10 and €5 respectively which they handed over. In addition to the men in camouflage uniforms, there were “two Syrian translators”, one of which was wearing a balaclava, who transported the apprehended people across the river in dinghies. When the group arrived at the river, the dinghies were already inflated. The respondent explained that each dinghy had approximately 12 people with one Syrian driver. He described how the first river crossing was 30 metres and there were assisted by two men in plain-clothes to get out of the river. They then had to walk for about 9 steps where there is a tree branch in the river which they had to balance and walk across to reach Turkish territory. According to the respondent, there were just open fields and trees surrounding them. They did not encounter any Turkish authorities and walked for approximately 40 minutes but stopped because a member of the transit group could not walk further due to the pain in his leg. The transit group then took a taxi to Istanbul.