“I didn’t want to look at them - I didn’t want to get beaten anymore.”

  • Date and time: August 31, 2021 22:00
  • Location: Close to Edirne, Turkey
  • Coordinates: 41.662926, 26.492797
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 5-30 years old , from: Syria
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 3 police officers wearing blue uniforms with the 'police' insignia on, white car with 'police' insignia, speaking Greek; 3 police officers, wearing black uniforms without insignia, wearing black balaclavas, carrying guns, speaking English and other language (not Greek); details about other police officers unknown.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, denial of food/water, non-access to medial assistance
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent is a 23-year-old man from Syria. He has experienced two pushbacks, the most recent being from Greece to Turkey, around the end of August 2021. 

After crossing the Greek border, together with a group of 10 people, including the respondent’s 14-year-old brother, they were apprehended by the police in Greece. Six of the people in the group got caught, but the respondent, together with two other people and his brother, managed to escape. The group now consisted of four Syrians at the ages between 14 to 30 years old. At that point, they did not have any food and their phones were not charged. After three days, they found a village about 10 km east of Komotini, where they could get some food and charge their phones. Here, the people in the village called the police and the police came immediately. 

They were approached by three police officers wearing blue uniforms and with the ‘police’ insignia written on. Their car was white, also with the ‘police’ insignia. The language they spoke was Greek. The police officers walked out of the car with batons in their hands, and the first question they asked was “where are your friends?”. After replying that they do not know since their friends got caught, the police asked for money and their phones. Subsequently, they searched their bodies and took away their money and their phones. 

Following this, one of the police officers sat in the car and two of the officers walked behind it. They made the group of four people also walk behind the car and the officers made sure that they would not escape. The respondent explained that the police used insulting language against them while pushing them and trying to scare them. They kept on pushing them until the police car eventually passed the village so no one could see them. After this, they were kicked and violently pushed into the back of the car. 

Inside the back of the car, it was completely dark and the air was bad. They were driving for about half an hour before they met another white van without any writings on it. In the middle of a forest, three other police officers were waiting for them. They wore black uniforms without any signs and they also carried guns. They were all wearing black balaclavas and spoke in a different language than Greek. When these officers communicated with the Greek police officers, they spoke in English. The group was ordered to take off their clothes and shoes. After this, they were beaten and kicked. The respondent explained how they also would hit everyone with batons, including his 14-year-old brother. They hit the respondent on his legs and his back, and on his younger brother’s shoulder while ordering him to hurry up into the van. They told the four people “you are slow, hurry up!”. 

After this, they closed the car and started driving. This time, they drove for around five hours. The respondent explained that the officers would drive to different spots to look for people who have crossed the border. Also, their colleges would call for them if they had ‘collected’ people-on-the-move that they could come and pick up. Eventually, they were 10 people in the car. All of them were men, Syrians, between 20 and 30 years old plus another minor, close to 15 years old.

It was so tight and we didn’t have enough space to sit. The officers were driving so fast and they were driving fast on purpose so we would hit each other”.

When the respondent asked them to slow it down, the officers would scream back and insult them. 

During the long hours of driving, they were not provided any food or water. They would ask for water when the car stopped, but this only made the officers angry. They also did not have the chance to go to the toilet. One person in the car really had to pee, but the officers told him to “just do it inside the car, next to your friends.” 

Eventually, they were taken to a detention place around 5 p.m. The respondent explained that this was a place with some buildings without any writing of police or something similar on it. He could not explain what it looked like on the way there, because the windows of the van were completely blurred out. It was in a forest, but you could see the road and a small ‘village’ next to it. Here, they were put into a big room with seven other people. They were ordered to take off their shoes and socks. The police officers took away their belongings and ordered them to stand next to each other. Here, they would all stand with their hands and faces towards the wall. This lasted for approximately half an hour. During this time, the officers looked through their belongings. The 15-year-old boy tried to move and as a consequence the officers would beat him hard with the baton. The officers spoke English to them and they consisted of both women and men. 

After half an hour, the people were given back their underwear and they were then put into a cell with another 20 people. Thus, they were now 37 people in one room with little space. The conditions inside the cell were extremely poor – the respondent even got sick the time he was in there and got an allergic reaction on his skin. They were all sitting on the floor closely next to each other. 

There was one toilet at the end of the cell: “The toilet was really dirty and we didn’t have shoes or slippers, and it was just so bad.” They did not have access to showers or clean water. They also did not have access to medical support. After some time in the cell, another four people were pushed into the cell. Their skin was blue and they were screaming from the pain. There was a camera in the cell, and the four people would desperately ask for help and medical assistance towards the camera, but without any luck. They were also not provided with any food or water during the four hours they would spend inside. 

Their fingerprints nor photos were taken of the people inside the detention space. The officers would not even allow the people to speak among them. If someone tried to talk to them, the officers started insulting them and threatening them with batons. For this reason, the respondent was unable to claim asylum.  

After sitting and waiting for a long time, the officers came to the cell, started to insult them and ordered them to hurry and go out of the cell. From here, they were put into two vans, same as the previous ones; white without any writing. They pushed around 40 people into one van. If anyone did not want to get inside because it was too full, the officers would just beat them and force them inside the van. They drove around 30 to 60 minutes to another prison where only women and children were waiting. Here, they switched to blue vans and brought the women and children along with them. 

Again they drove around 30 to 60 minutes to a big forest and a river. It was dark, around 10 – 10:30 p.m., so the respondent was unable to see any details. In total, the respondent assumed that they were around 80 people; 7 to 9 women and the same amount of children aged 5 to 10 years old. Here, they were ordered to get on their knees and put their hands around their heads or legs. The men were still sitting in their underwear – the women were with their clothes. 

The respondent could not recall how many officers were there: “I didn’t want to look at them – I didn’t want to get beaten anymore.” In the river, there were only male police officers. In addition, there was a group of 8 people that worked for the police and that the respondent claimed to be Syrians. They were wearing balaclavas. As all the people were waiting on their knees, the Syrian group would “unexpectedly, randomly and brutally beat” the people. They inflated two dinghys (plastic boats). They spoke in Turkish to the officers and to the people before they were forced into the dinghys. Two were on the Greek side, two on the Turkish side  and four of them transported the people in the boats. In total, they fit 15 people in one boat. While crossing the river, the respondent recalled that they told him in Arabic; “actually we are Syrians. We are working with the police in order to get papers so we can go to Germany and to Europe. That’s what they promised us and that’s why we’re doing this.” 

Halfway through the river, the people were thrown into the water. They were ordered to jump and to swim to Turkey. This included women, children and a lot of people who did not know how to swim. They were not provided with life vests or any other floating objects. Many of them were also heavily beaten before they were thrown into the water. The people who knew how to swim would help the people who struggled in the water with strong currents. 

After this, the respondent and the big group of people eventually arrived on Turkish land. As they were not provided with water at any time, he had to drink from the river. Still today, a month after the pushback, the respondent feels ill from the water. “You can imagine after 13 days of walking, with no water and without shoes. When I got to the Turkish side, I was just finished.” He struggled with walking without shoes, so it took him 3 hours to reach a village close to Edirne.  

From the village, he and his brother managed to call a taxi that brought them to their family in Istanbul.  

Pictures of the respondents feet after walking for a long time without shoes.
Picture 1: The water from the river that the respondent had to drink due to extreme thirst. Picture 2: The respondent’s back after the beating by the officers.