The respondent was apprehended with his wife and four others, all from Morocco and between the ages of 18 and 25 years, by Greek police officers outside a forest near Tychero in Greece at about 3 am. The other four escaped capture as they ran away, but the respondent’s wife had sprained her ankle so she was not able to flee, and the respondent stayed with her.
The 4 police officers, dressed in blue uniforms and blue jackets with police written on the back, arrived in a big car (either black or dark blue) with a double cabin. 2 of the officers were holding small guns, and the other 2 were holding black sticks, resembling police batons. 2 of the police went to follow the 4 men that fled and took the car with them, but the other 2 stayed. The respondent explained that these 2 police officers subsequently called for another car. While they were waiting, the officers conducted a body search. They were wearing plastic gloves, searching the respondent and his wife for money and mobile phones, which they took. They spoke to the respondent in English, asking “where are you from?”, “where did you cross?”, “where are you going?” and “How many days have you been walking?”. They also insulted the respondent in English, but he cannot remember what was said exactly.
When the car came, they took them to a detention site. More people who had been caught previously were already inside the car. The officers started to push and insult the respondent and his wife in Greek, so he couldn’t understand. The driving was reckless and described as “crazy fast” by the respondent. The car had no seats and an awful, mouldy stench, “just like when you leave food in a dish for two weeks” the respondent explained. The journey took about one hour before they arrived at the detention site.
The detention site was surrounded by a large wall with barbed wire on top. The respondent explained that there was a cabin in the middle where guards and officers would rest and sit in.
When they arrived, two officers stood on either side of the car as they came out and started to hit everyone one by one. The respondent explained that he was afraid of coming out of the car because he would be hit but because he had his wife with him, they did not hit him. They were then all made to stand in a line against the wall and were forcibly searched again, being made to undress. If someone did not understand, they were hit.
The officers that searched them were wearing black balaclavas, but their clothes were not uniforms, they were instead dressed in black jackets and trousers and leather boots. The officers searched them to see if they had any hidden items, like phones or money. The respondent was asked where they were searched, to which he replied “everywhere. Even sensitive areas of the body”. The people were forced to take off all of their clothes, socks, and shoes. They were not given their shoes back, but they had their clothes returned. His wife did not understand English so the respondent helped translate and helped her when being told what to do during being searched.
After they were searched and given back some of their belongings, they were gathered all together into a place where there was little space. They were all told to go inside and if they did not understand they were hit. They “drag him by his clothes and then they hit him” explained the respondent about the first person, from Afghanistan, who was asked to go in after not understanding. The respondent described the place as one room with a metal roof and one toilet. He said it was large, but since there were about 80 people, there was no space.
Inside the room the respondent’s wife was feeling dizzy, so she slept on his leg. The respondent was so tired he also slept for 45 minutes to an hour when he was eventually woken up when the officers started to shout at them. Two officers took them out of the room. There were 7 or 8 other officers who just watched. All of these officers were dressed the same as the others, in unmarked clothes and balaclavas. There were also women and children taken out from a different place too, making up to about 100 people. The respondent heard Arabic being spoken with the Syrian accent/dialect amongst some of the people but was unable to identify any other nationalities.
The 100 people were loaded into a large truck, black with no markings. He remarked that the lights in the back of the car were switched off so he could not see anything. It was metal inside and it was cramped. They were driven for about 1.5 hours until they arrived at the Evros river. The respondent explained that the driving was even faster than the first journey. The area they arrived in was in a forest, with the respondent explaining there were “dust storms”.
In groups of 8 they were taken out of the truck, with the officers speaking quietly. In addition to the “masked men”, there was a Greek military man wearing a green camo army uniform who was preparing a boat. The respondent explained that there were two men in the boat who were not Greek but were in charge of crossing the boat. There was also a blue rope that had been tied between the two sides of the river, on trees on both the Greek and Turkish side.
Though they were taken out in groups of 8, they were crossed in groups of 16 in the boat. The officers were treating them well and talking quietly without hitting them. The boat was not on the edge of the river so they had to walk into knee high water before they were put in the boat. The two men in the boat stabilized the boat to make sure the 16 people were able to get in. Once everyone was in, they pulled the rope so the boat crossed the river. But instead of arriving on the Turkish shore, they were dropped in the water just before the Turkish shores. The water height was about one metre, and the respondent explained that they were scared not to go into a deep point in the river. He helped his wife to the other side. The respondent noticed there was a sign, written in Turkish and English, stating ‘military area’ on the side they crossed into.
The respondent explains that he did not wait for the others as he knew if Turkish soldiers caught them they would be sent back to Greece. He and his wife walked for 8km through rice fields and arrived at the first Turkish village. In the village, there was a mosque and a fountain next to it.