The respondent, a 22-year-old Palestinian man, recounts his apprehension by Greek officers along with 12 others including two women and several children, all aged between 12 and 30 years old. The respondent explained that they had been in Greece for 2 days in total, but had only walked about 7 hours from their point of crossing close from Meriç when Greek officers spotted them.
The Greek officers started to shoot flares into the sky and also started shooting around the respondent and his group with assault rifles as they were spotted. The respondent explained that the military was shooting at them to stop them from running away. There were four officers, dressed in green camouflage uniforms, some of them wearing balaclavas. The respondent knew they were Greek as they were speaking in Greek, and sometimes a little bit in English. These officers took everything the respondent and his group had, including their money and phones.
The respondent explained to the officers that “we are from Gaza, Palestine and its war there. But he [the officer] never cared”.
Instead of acknowledging the respondent’s pleas for asylum, they ignored him. The officers took all of their clothes and the respondent explained how he and the others had to stand naked while the officers took all they had, including all of their money. The respondent explained that they were just in their underwear, and not given their jackets or shoes back.
They were then all taken to a detention site. There, the Greek military handed the respondent and the others across to police officers in blue uniforms. The number of Greek police officers could not be identified by the participant as “there were so many and I couldn’t see” he explained. It was definitely a minimum of five, likely several more. The officers denied them food and water for the whole day that they were detained. They even denied food to a pregnant woman.
The respondent and his group were detained in a room, no bigger than about 50 metres square. There were about 60 people already inside this room when the respondents’ group was brought in. Their origins were ranging from Kurdish, Syrian, Palestinian to Pakistani, and ages ranging from 10 to 40-45 years old. The room had a toilet, but it was very dirty. There was no place to rest as the cell was so small. “Even animals can’t accept these conditions”, remarked the respondent. After they were kept in detention for a full day, 6 officers in black uniforms, some of whom were wearing balaclavas, arrived.
These officers started to hit them to force them into the back of a big blue bus. The respondent explained that there were 80 people taken from the detention site (the 60 people from his room, and another 20 people who were either from a different detention site or they were in a different room at the same detention site as the others – the respondent could not tell).
The respondent asked one of the officers if he could wear trousers as it was so cold, and the officer told him it was okay. However, the officer then asked the respondent where he was from, to which he explained he was from Palestine, and after he heard him say this he started to hit him with a baton to get him into the bus to leave without allowing him to wear his trousers.
The bus had no seats and all 80 people had to stand up. They also struggled to breathe and the respondent explained “you can’t see your finger in front of your eyes”.
The bus arrived, after a drive of around two hours, in a forest near the Evros/Meriç River. They were taken out of the bus and beaten as they exited. “They keep hitting you every time they get a chance” the respondent recounted. There were other officers, about 10-15 of them, waiting at the river. The respondent explained that he had €250 taken from him by them which he had managed to hide previously.
A boat was ready when they arrived at the river. People were loaded onto the boat in groups of 10, but the boat was not big enough to support that number. The respondent recounted an incident of two people almost drowning: “Even there were two who sank in the river and thank god they could make it to get to the other side of the river” explained the respondent, “but no one tried to help them.”
The boat took the people to a small island, rather than taking them to the Turkish shore of Evros. The people who were left on the island were made to cross the river on foot, from the island to the Turkish side, in water that came up to their chest.