“We were starving and begging every day for food and water and we could barely move”

  • Date and time: February 26, 2021 20:00
  • Location: Soufli/Umurca
  • Coordinates: 41.190857370156, 26.319169319727
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 50 person(s), age: 20-48 , from: Bangladesh, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Eritrea
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 3 officers wearing blue uniforms with “police” written on them in both the Latin alphabet and Greek alphabet along with 2 officers wearing green pants and green jackets and a white truck; 6 officers wearing Greek police uniform with several police cars; 5 officers wearing green military uniforms with a black jeep
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water, destruction of personal belongings
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 38-year-old man from Morocco, had crossed into Greece via the Evros River and walked for three days when he was apprehended by police in a forest near Sidiro, Greece. He and the other person he was with, a 27-year-old Moroccan man, were stopped at around 11 pm by five Greek officers. According to the respondent, three of them were wearing blue uniforms with “police” written on them in both the Latin and Greek alphabets and the other two were wearing green trousers and green jackets.

The officers allegedly hit the men with a baton, kicked them, and “took everything [they] had” including “supplies and phones”. They reportedly put the men in the back of an old car – the respondent recalled that it felt as if “they were transporting animals in it” – and drove “too fast” on a paved road for about half an hour until, as the respondent said, “they took us to a place I guess in somewhere called Soufli.” 

The place of detention was described like a “garage in the back of a police station”, that had no walls and was “covered with a roof and surrounded by a fence”. They were put in a cell with about 50 other people, including four Syrian women. The others ranged in age from about 20 to 48 years old and were from Eritrea, Bangladesh, Iraq, Morocco, and Syria, all male. The group was allegedly denied access to a toilet, thus forcing them to pee where they could, and the respondent said “they didn’t give us any food, no water—we were like slaves.”

According to the respondent, “There was a Turkish man. He showed [the officers] his passport and told them he was against the government and the system. They took him outside from there and I guess they gave him asylum because they separated him from all of us, took him outside, and he did not come back.”

In total, the respondent saw six officers at the detention centre, who were dressed in blue Greek police uniforms and said there were “police cars everywhere”. The respondent claimed that he was unable to ask for asylum because, he said, “we couldn’t talk. If we talk, we get beaten.” During the time in detention, an officer reportedly split the respondent’s passport “into two pieces”.

The respondent was kept in the detention centre for around four days, during which time he recalled, “[they] were starving and begging every day for food and water and [they] could barely move.” Finally, the group was loaded into the back of the a white truck – that the respondent identified as the same one that had brought him to the detention centre – by officers who would have hit them to make the detainees move faster. 

They were driven for about 15 minutes to a forest next to the Evros/Meric river. According to the respondent, the driving was “fast and reckless” and they couldn’t see outside because “the truck was closed”. They arrived at the river after sunset and were met by five officers dressed in green uniforms – described as “military” by the respondent – who were “acting like smugglers”, in the words of the respondent, and had a black jeep with them.

Eight at a time, the group was loaded into an approximately three-meter-long plastic motor boat, along with two officers driving the boat. They were brought to the middle of the river and reportedly forced to jump into the water, which was shallow enough to walk through but still deep in some places. On the other side, the respondent and others walked five kilometers, which took them about an hour, before arriving in Umurca.