The respondent, a 35 years old Syrian man, was apprehended shortly after crossing from the Turkish region of Edirne into Greece, approximately on the 19th of August 2020. He was travelling with a group of a total of 13 people, from Syria and Iraq, among which 3 women and 6 children. This was his third attempt to enter Greece, and his third pushback.
In the mid afternoon, while walking through the woods on the Greek side of the Evros/Meriç river in the proximity of the town of Orestiada, the group was stopped by a patrol of 6 people wearing “police” labelled clothes and masks to cover their faces. These masked people, which the respondent referred to as “commanders”, ordered the group to sit down, to keep their head bowed down and to not look at them, enforcing the order through beatings with retractable rubber batons.
“They beat everyone. Even the women. Except the children” said the respondent, who recalled being hit on his back with the batons.
Following the beating, the “commanders” searched one by one members of the group, seizing their documents and belongings. Reportedly, the respondent was stripped off of his phone and his “kimlik” (Turkish identity card). Afterwards, the 6 “commanders” made a phone call and were soon joined by another 5 or 6 police officers, wearing the same outfit, who arrived on a blue pickup truck with flashing lights on the roof, and towing behind a brown boat.
The group was made to sit in that place for a few hours, until it went dark, therefore after 20:00 at the date of the episode, and at around 22:00 according to the respondent. All the people were made to get onto the pickup truck and were driven for a short distance, to another location that the respondent identified as the Greek-Turkish frontier line North-East of the town of Nea Vyssa.
Upon reaching that location in the woods, the group was ordered to walk towards the river, before being split into two smaller groups, which were made to embark the boat and to sit with their heads bowed down. One of the “commanders” was driving the boat. With two trips across the river, the groups were driven to an island that lies in the middle of the Greek-Turkish border, and finally they were left there.
The group found itself stranded there without any means of communication and any food, nor any tools to light a fire and get warm. They searched for a higher spot in the island and started screaming for help. They were eventually rescued by a Turkish army troop and brought back into Turkey.