The respondent, a young man from Morocco, crossed to Greece close to Bosna on the 4th of February with a second man by climbing the border fence. They walked for a while until they were close to Orestiada where they hid outside the town during the day and waited for nightfall to continue their way.
The respondent reported that while they were taking a nap, five police officers came. They were wearing heavy military boots and threatened the group with guns. The respondent recalled several different uniforms, some of them with Greek flags and others with EU flags on them and was certain that one of them wore a light blue armband with the EU flag on it. “I saw many colours (of uniforms), not only one colour, and there was the flag of the European Union. I was sure of it. I thought it was NATO, I didn’t know what Frontex is.” The uniform of the person wearing what appeared to be the light blue Frontex armband was dark. Since it was night, the respondent was not sure whether it was black or dark blue.
The officers had arrived in a dark car, similar to a jeep, with lights turned off, the respondent recalled. Three more officers were waiting in the car.
The respondent and his friend had been sleeping in sleeping bags, hiding next to a house between a pile of firewood and a toolshed. The two were woken up by shouting of the officers. “I guess someone did see us and did report about us. They were fixing their guns over us and it took us time to open the sleeping bags so he (the officer) pulled me from it and dragged me from it”.
The respondent proceeded to explain how the officers violently forced him and his friend out of their sleeping bags while continuously telling them to not make a sound. The respondent believed this was so that the owner of the house nearby would not notice what was happening.
He continued to explain how the officers then dragged him and his friend out of their sleeping bags:
“When he was dragging me, he just dragged me on my jacket and he strangled me. It did hurt me and even left a trace from my necklace that my mom gave to me. Then he dragged my friend and threw it on me like we are dogs. And when I got up, he kicked me with his foot in my legs while he kept telling me to “get up, get up!”.
When the respondent and his friend were finally up, the officers started speaking to each other in a language the respondent could not identify clearly but described as sounding like Italian or Spanish.
The officers searched them and took their phones as well as about 150 Euro from the respondent’s friend and 100 Euro and some Turkish lira from the respondent himself.
The officers ordered the two men to take off their jackets and pants. Since the respondent had just woken up, he was moving rather slowly while undressing and the officer impatiently pulled his shirt off while screaming at him “hurry up, hurry up!”.
“I took off all my clothes. I stood in boxer naked and it was so cold. Then he started checking me even in sensitive places. He was looking at me and talking like ‘you not hiding anything in here’”.
The officer then asked the respondent for his phone. He explained that he had handed it over to one of the other officers. One of the other officers, who had been waiting at the car, came over and the officers started discussing something the respondent could not understand. At this point, there were four officers at the car and four with the respondent and his friend.
When asked if they had asked for asylum, the respondent replied: “No my friend, they don’t let you speak. They don’t let us talk. They just hit you if you talk.”
The respondent recalled the officer asking him if he knew the computer game PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a game in which players are pitted against one another in a fight for survival) and told him they would play it with them. “They considered us animals” added the respondent.
Then, the officers ordered the respondent and his friend to get into the car and took them on a 10 min drive to a road where another vehicle, a big truck, was waiting. The respondent and his friend were ordered to get out of the car and into the truck. Inside that truck were two Moroccans, four Afghans and one Palestinian. It was a big green lorry, made of iron.
The truck started driving and stopped after about an hour at a detention site which the respondent described as “looking like a ruin.”
There were no other buildings around, but the respondent couldn’t see many details outside. Inside, the building looked like an old factory.
The respondent described how he and the others were ordered to stand near a wall and undress. Three officers in blue Greek uniforms started body searches. They found money with one of the Moroccans from the truck and started yelling at him “why did you lie to us, hiding money?”. An officer allegedly hit the man with his fist to his face.
Afterwards, the group was ordered to get dressed again and was taken into a room which, according to the respondent, looked like a small prison cell, approximately 2×3 metres. On their way there, the respondent could see that there were many other such cells as well in this building.
In the respondent’s cell, there were about 18 people with him and the others. He could however also see many other people in the other cells, “all full of people.”
In total, it must have been between 60-100, the respondent estimated. Their nationalities included Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, Pakistani, Afghani, Palestinian and Syrian.
Every couple of hours, new people arrived and were taken into cells. Among them were several families, including babies and pregnant women. The respondent remembered a severely injured person in one of the other cells as well. “We heard him scream from the pain all the time. But they didn’t bring a doctor. They don’t care.”
When asked how much time they spent in that cell, the respondent replied: “we were blessed, we didn’t spend too much time there, only a bit more than 5 hours.”
Throughout this time, they did not have access to water or food.
According to the respondent, after a bit more than five hours, all the people from the respondent’s cell and some from others were ordered to leave the building and get into a truck. Between 30 and 40 people were crammed into a box-type van.
“We couldn’t breathe well. Anyone who found a hole in the car just put his nose there to breathe in some air”. The car seemed to drive on unpaved roads and way too fast – “like he is carrying meat, not human beings.”
The ride lasted for less than an hour. When they arrived at the river, the respondent and the others were ordered to lie down, facing the ground, and not move. The respondent reported that there were several officers present, carrying batons. Whenever someone moved their heads to see what was happening around them, they hit them with baton blows to the head. When as a response someone screamed in pain, the officers would jump and walk on their legs to shut them up.
In addition to the two officers driving the car, five more officers were present at this point and were described as wearing green camouflage uniforms. There was also a boat ready. It was a rather big, inflatable plastic boat with an engine. 35 of the group, including a family with a small baby, were loaded into it at once while five stayed behind. The respondent said it was about to capsize as it was only built for a maximum of 20 people.
Two people in civilian clothes were driving the boat. The respondent was certain they were speaking Syrian Arabic when they ordered the group to jump into the water.
On the other side of the river, the respondent and his friend started walking right away. They found some other Moroccans who appeared to have been pushed back just a bit earlier.
In the middle of the river, the group was ordered to jump. The water level reached their chest, in some places it was even deeper and the current was strong. One of the other men who could not swim went under, and the respondent, who used to work as a lifeguard, pulled him up and took him to the Turkish shore.
On the Turkish side, the group walked for around 3 hours before they found a taxi close from Meriç which took them to Edirne. The first village they had encountered was Umurca.