The respondent, a 19-year-old man from Syria, was apprehended in Peplos, Greece after walking for one full day. He was with approximately 28 others, among them many women and children, ranging in age from 7 or 8 to around 40, all of Syrian origin.
At around 8am, the group was apprehended by 7 officers. Three of them were wearing black uniforms, two were wearing sage green uniforms and two were wearing green camo uniforms. All of them were wearing balaclavas, none of their uniforms had any flags or insignia. One of the officers spoke Turkish, but the rest spoke in Greek and English.
The officers told the respondent and the others to “look down”. Then, the respondent remembers that “they took my phone and my power bank—they took everything we had from all who were with me. They only left clothes on me…then they took us in the car.” The car had no windows and was dark inside; the respondent couldn’t see outside. The vehicle was of medium size, with a door at the back similar to a refrigerated truck and three steps to enter. It was black and blue without any insignia.
The drive lasted approximately 30-minute and they arrived at a detention site. The respondent cannot describe the building from outside because the car stopped right in front of the door and did not have any windows. He does however recall several white pickups that had “police” written on them in blue as well as several green cars.
When they arrived at the place of detention, the respondent said the police searched the group again. The women in the group were checked by both male or female officers. Some people were hiding money and the police took it from them. The respondent and one other man were taken away from the group and their hands cuffed with zip ties. They were then ordered to undress and lay down in the corner of a small cell, naked.
“They put zip ties on my hands and one officer pressed my head with his foot and 2 others beat me with a metal baton.” The beating was “random”, as in all over the body, and “very hard”.
The respondent recalls particularly one officer in jeans and a black T-Shirt who was hitting him brutally with a baton for what the respondent estimates to have been 15min. Afterward, he ordered the respondent to put on trousers and a pullover. Then the officers moved the respondent to another cell where he was put with around 120-125 others, including women and children, ranging in age from about 8 to 45 years old. The cell was about 6 by 3 meters and the respondent was kept there from about 3 pm, when he arrived, until 7 pm. During this time they weren’t given anything to eat or drink but people were able to enter the toilet room where they could drink water from the faucet.
There were many police officers present at the site, also one woman in a dark blue uniform with police written on her back and a Greek flag on the shoulder.
While he was being beaten outside the big cell, the respondent saw many small rooms looking like offices and some water tanks. The female officer came from one of those rooms, kicked him four times, and left again.
The respondent says it was difficult to estimate how many officers there were in total because they all look so similar. He is certain that it was minimum 10, in three types of uniforms: all black, green camouflage and sage green, all of them were wearing balaclavas except for the female officer in official Greek police uniform.
At around 7 pm, two officers dressed in black came and loaded all 120-125 people who had been detained in the cell together into several different vehicles. The respondent and around 40 others were loaded into what he describes as an “old military truck”, the same as before – stairs leading up to the “dark box of the truck” that was all “covered by iron”. The group was driven “not more than 30 minutes”, during which time “the driving was so reckless and in every [curve] he just turned with the car and we kept colliding into each other.”
When they arrived at the Evros River, they were met by 7 officers wearing black uniforms and balaclavas. The officers spoke Greek and English, and one spoke Turkish as well. There were also two people in green uniforms who were handling the boat, wearing balaclavas as well.
Again the respondent and the same other person was separated from the group, forced to undress completely, and their hands cuffed with zip ties. This time they were also gagged with socks. The respondent recalls being beaten with wooden sticks until they broke and then the officers switched to metal poles (not batons), continuing the beating.
Everyone else was searched again, this time the officers also used knives to cut into the clothes to check if anything was sewn-in.
Then the whole group was taken on the boat which was ready at their arrival. In groups of eight and with two officers, they were taken across the river.
The respondent and the other man were pushed back totally naked, the rest of the group without shoes and jackets.
The respondent is rather unsure where exactly the pushback occurred because he was fading in and out of consciousness after the beating he suffered. His descriptions indicate a point close from Didymoteicho. On the Turkish side, he could not walk. One of the women removed her head scarf and four of the other men carried him, using the scarf as an improvised stretcher.
As a result of the severe beatings, the respondent suffered injuries all over his legs, arms, torso and head. His wrist was broken and he was not able to even sit up for more than a week.
The following pictures were taken five days after the pushback.