“There was a Syrian guy with a broken leg and it had turned to deep blue around his foot, and he was screaming ‘I need a doctor, I need a doctor’, but they didn’t answer”

  • Date and time: February 5, 2021 20:00
  • Location: Lagyna/Küplü
  • Coordinates: 41.110062, 26.3517977
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 100 person(s), age: 3-35 , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia, Chad
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 2 officers wearing blue uniforms with "Astynomia” written on them in a white and blue 4x4 police vehicle; 2 officers in civilian clothes in a red Peugot Partner; 3 officers at the place of detention; a large military truck; 15 officers speaking Greek, English, and Arabic at the pushback site, some wearing blue uniforms, some wearing green uniforms, and some wearing black jackets, brown pants, and balaclavas
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent is a 29-year-old man from Tunisia. He reports that, after crossing the land border and walking through Greece for eight days, he was apprehended around sunset about 13 or 14 kilometres before Komotini, along with two other Tunisian men and one Moroccan man between the ages of 28 and 30. 

According to the respondent, the group was apprehended by two officers wearing blue uniforms with “Astynomia” written on them, therefore presumably Greek police officers, who were driving a white and blue 4×4 police vehicle. The officers reportedly took their phones and told them to kneel on the ground until two more officers, dressed in civilian clothes, arrived in a red Peugeot. The officers spoke Greek to each other but spoke English to the group, telling them “back down, back down!” and asking them where they were from.

The respondent reports that the group was put in the red car and driven around 2-2.5 hours to a site the respondent stated he recognised as the Alexandroupoli police station. The respondent couldn’t see anything from inside the car but said the driver was driving too fast along what seemed like a paved road. The timing of the drive and reported locations cast doubt on the location, so we cannot be entirely sure that the respondent was detained in Alexandroupoli and not another location in the area. As many other testimonies in the database show, there are a number of informal detention sites along the length of the GR-TUR land border.

When they arrived at the detention centre, the respondent reports that the three officers searched the group and took their personal belongings. The respondent said, “they check every detail—they don’t leave any part of your body without checking. They ask you to take off your shoes, your jacket, your shirt, and they check sensitive places, from your front to your back, in case you are hiding something. Maybe you’re hiding your phone somewhere. Then they took us to the cell.”

He described the detention centre as big with many buildings and recalled hearing the adhan (the Islamic call to prayer), implying that there was a mosque nearby. 

The cell was a small space, described as being approximately three by four meters wide, with a toilet overflowing with human faeces that the respondent claimed was clogged on purpose. The group was the first to be detained in the cell but were later joined by a group of Syrians and Iraqis followed by several groups of Africans, whom the respondent guessed to be from Chad, and then a group of Afghans and Pakistanis. In total, around 60 or more men ended up in the cell together. The men were between 17 and 30 years old and were of Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Palestinian, Tunisian, Somalian, Chadian, Afghan, Pakistani, and Hindu origins. The respondent stated that they spent one night and one day in the cell, during which time they weren’t given any food or water, despite the fact that, as the respondent recounted, “we were screaming to bring us some food, but they] didn’t care.” Medical care was also denied to them: “there was a Syrian guy with a broken leg and it had turned to deep blue around his foot, and he was screaming ‘I need a doctor, I need a doctor’, but they didn’t answer.”

In front of the cell, there was a room where the respondent claimed that smugglers were given food, water, and soda, were able to use their phones and watch TV and had their room cleaned by a Greek woman. He said it was clear they were smugglers because they spoke Arabic and one of the other detainees recognised them. The respondent stated “after that, I believed that there is no law that controls anything here. Only money is their law.”

Some of the detainees asked for “Asil” (asylum) and others said “white card”, but an officer reportedly replied, “no card, no.” One Iraqi man’s passport was taken from him and when he told them he needed it back the respondent states that the officers refused and told him to go away.

After sunset on their second day in the detention centre, the respondent explains that the men were loaded into a big military truck that already had many people inside; the respondent speculated that they might have been brought from a different detention centre. There were “too many” people in the truck, including women and families, one of which had an infant and a small child. In total, the respondent estimated that there were at least 100 people around 35 years old and under put on the truck, including the men he was detained with. 

The respondent reported that the driver “was reckless” and drove “too fast” and the respondent couldn’t see outside. After about 45 minutes to an hour, they arrived at the Evros/Meric River, where about 15 officers were waiting for them. According to the respondent, some had on blue uniforms, some were wearing green uniforms, and some were wearing black jackets, brown pants, and balaclavas, who the respondent referred to as “commandos”. The officers “kept saying be quiet” and then reportedly began ferrying people across the river in a small plastic boat that was described as being about two or three metres in length. One officer sat in the front, one or two sat in the back, and then they loaded in around 12 people at a time who were made to get off on a small island consisting of sand and some trees. The respondent was in the second group to cross, and claimed, “they put you there and ask you to cross and later it depends on your luck, if it floods or not, if you can cross or die.”

Once he made it to the other side, the respondent walked until sunrise, following lights until he arrived at a mosque in Küplü. From there they walked to Ipsala and then got help to go to Istanbul.