“Every move you make, they hit you with the baton”

  • Date and time: January 10, 2021 21:00
  • Location: Praggi/Kurdu Köyu
  • Coordinates: 41.323116115019, 26.585599189502
  • Pushback from: Greece
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 10-50 , from: Palestine, Syria, Morocco
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), water immersion, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
  • Police involved: 10 Greek officers in green uniform, some wearing balaclavas, 10 officers in black civilian clothes and balaclavas, some speaking Arabic; dark blue bus with metal grids on the windows
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent is a 30-year-old male from Syria. Close from Meriç, they crossed the border into Greece in a group of 15 Syrians, Palestinians, and Moroccans. Soon after, they were apprehended outside Lavara on the 10th of January. One officer had detected them and then “many others” surrounded them. All of them were wearing green uniforms, some of them wore balaclavas. At first, it was ten officers, then more came, but the respondent cannot give an exact total number of officers gathered at the end. 

With their guns pointed at the respondent and the rest of the group, the officers ordered them to get on their knees. They then ordered the group to undress and proceeded to search them for their phones. They took all phones from them as well as money and the rest of their belongings. 

Then the officers ordered the group to embark onto a vehicle which the respondent described as a bus. While they got on it, the officers hit everyone with black batons. The bus drove for around one hour and they arrived at a detention site which the respondent describes as a small area, out in the open, surrounded by a fence. 

At this detention site, the officers again ordered everyone to undress completely and conducted body searches again, “even sensitive places”. The female members of the group were searched as well, by male officers. While the group was undressing, the officers again hit those that were not complying quickly enough, with batons.

The group had to spend almost three days out in the open. Throughout this time, they did not receive any food or water. Some of them were very sick, one even started spitting blood, but they were denied medical assistance. When they asked for asylum, the officers responded only with laughter. 

Every now and then, more people were brought in. In the end, a total of 80 or more people, from many different nationalities, were gathered at the detention site. Among them were approximately 20 women and several children. The age range was between 10 and 50 years. 

Towards the end of the third day, some officers wearing the same clothes as the previous one ordered all of the detainees to embark on a big, dark blue bus with metal grids covering the windows. This description matches the busses routinely used by the Greek police.  The driving is described by the respondents as very fast and reckless and lasted for approximately an hour again but the respondent is very unsure, saying he had lost any feeling for time due to his dehydration. All of the 80 people were crammed into this bus, and the respondent describes that it was so crowded that breathing was hard.

The bus eventually arrived at the Evros/Meric river. About 10 officers in dark civilian clothes wearing balaclavas were present, some of them were speaking Arabic. They were brutal: “every move you make, they hit you with the baton.” 

A boat had already been prepared. It was not very big, but the officers ordered 30 people at once to embark it. It started sinking after having made it only approximately 3m into the river. The officers therefore ordered the respondent and others to jump into the water, at gunpoint. Some of the group members were not able to swim, and the respondent saw them disappear in the river.

The first village the group encountered after their pushback was Kurdu Köyu.