The respondent was walking in a group with 5 other people – 4 Tunisian men including him, one Egyptian man and one Moroccan woman, aged between 30 – 46 years. They crossed the 8th of July around 4 pm along the Evros/Meriç river. The group started walking from Edirne for around 30 km until they were near Kapikule and crossed from there the river. They were partly walking and partly going by taxi to the crossing point without using a smuggler. The respondent and his group were walking about 60 km for 2 days until they were near Petrota but far away from the highway. The group was apprehended at 2 am, and subsequently brought to a detention site, which was surrounded by a forest and agricultural land of sunflowers.
6 officers in 2 cars appeared, who were all wearing camouflage pants and black shirts, they did not wear balaclavas. The shirt’s logo had “border police” written on their arms. The cars were white Nissan pick-up-vans with blue shapes and blue round police logos on them.
The officers were talking Greek to each other, which none of the group could understand. The officers were not talking to members of the respondents group. The officers urged the group to kneel down, put their hands behind them and let them wait in that position for 1h 30 min.
The respondent and the other males were also asked to completely undress so the officers could search through their clothes. They took their phones and money from the ones who had some in their pockets. The officers didn’t ask the women to undress nor were they searching for her. The clothes were given back afterwards but not the money nor the phones.
After approximately 1.5 hours, the officers called another white Ford Transit van – which had no indication of a police car or apparently no plate number – with 3 officers.
They were all wearing balaclavas and besides that civilian clothes – jeans and sneakers. These were speaking English and asked the respondent and the others where they are from and whether they are willing to go to Charmanli (Bulgaria). They loaded the group into the back of the trunk of the vehicle. Inside the trunk were already 2 Eritreans (one man of 28 years, one woman of 26), 2 men from Syria (around 30 years) and one man from Yemen (48 years old).
After about 1.5 hours of fast driving (the respondents and the others kept colliding towards each other) on a paved road, they were taken to the detention site at around 3 or 4 am. On the way to that detention centre, 8 male Syrians (age range: 24 – 30) were additionally picked up after around 30 minutes of driving and loaded into the back of the trunk.
The detention centre was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Inside there was a garage which contained a lot of military trucks and a blue plastic boat with an engine. In the back of the garage was a caravan, which had in the front 3 or 4 stairs and a hole as a door. On the left there were chairs and an office, leading to a hallway which leads to the detention cell. The centre was identified as being close to Soufli.
Inside the detention site were around 8 officers in sage green shirts, pants and black boots. They were not wearing Balaclavas or holding weapons and the respondent was not able to identify them as police in terms of armbands etc. But, after showing the respondent a picture of different uniforms, the 8 officers were identified as Greek police officers. Everybody was taken out of the trunk of the van and was asked to undress, to turn and look at the wall. The officers started beating some of the people with a plastic baton for a few seconds.
After beating them, they returned shirts and pants back, but kept lighters, cigarettes and some money, which had not been taken yet by the officers before. Some of the money was later returned, but not all of it. A female officer was called and asked to search the women amongst them, they were not being beaten.
Further on, the officers took the respondent and the others to a cell, which was 8 by 4 metres in size. The respondent described the inside as a garage with nowhere to sit. The toilet was inside and very smelly and dirty. Inside the cell more people (from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Morocco and Turkey, between 20 to 60 years old – 7 women amongst them: 3 Algerian, one Moroccan, one Eritrean and 2 Syrian women) had been apprehended before. They spent 8 hours in the detention cell, being denied food and water throughout this time. They were not made to sign any paper or made to give their fingerprints. Within the 8 hours they were detained, more people were brought to the cell, so that in total the respondent estimated 160 persons were held in the cell at the end.
After 8 hours, the 160 people were taken by 4 vehicles – 2 trucks and 2 vans – to a small island near to Kapikule. The trucks were old sage green military trucks of the brand Mercedes, and the 2 vans were two white ford transit vans. To enter the vehicles faster, four new officers – dressed all in black with balaclavas, guns and no indication that they were any officers – hit the people on their backs with a plastic baton. Around 40 people were loaded in the truck’s trunk and driven fast and recklessly driven for ca. 1 hour on firstly paved, further unpaved road to the pushback point. The other 120 people were loaded in the other trunk and van. The four vehicles drove to the same pushback point and arrived around 1.30-2 pm.
On site, 6 other officers were there. 5 of them were wearing camouflage pants, sage green shirts and sneakers, wearing balaclavas and no indication of being Greek officers. 4 of these 6 officers were speaking Arabic to the respondent and the others and asked where they were from. They gave them cigarettes and told the respondent to wait until the whole group was complete because the Turkish army would otherwise beat them up, if they would find people alone.
The respondent also could hear English, Arabic and Greek. One of the officers was wearing a black uniform – black shirt, pants and a walky-talky – checking the pushback information and spoke in German. After showing the respondent various uniforms, he could identify the uniform with the arm logo of the German eagle with “Polizei” (= “Police”) written on it. The officer although didn’t have the blue FRONTEX Armband and neither the German flag.
These 6 officers searched the respondent and the others again. They found some hidden money and beat the person hard with a branch and a plastic baton. In total they gathered over 5.000 Euros (1.600 Euros they found on one person).
After waiting for around 45 minutes at the river side, a green plastic boat of the size of 3 metres, had been already prepared in the river. The respondent also mentions another boat on which had 10 people and 2 drivers.
12 people were loaded on the respondents boat, including two drivers. The respondent described the boat as being stable on the water. The boats were driven by the earlier mentioned 6 police officers who spoke in Arabic and Kurdish, 2 for each boat. They took the respondent and his boat to a small island which was around 20 metres big and one tree on it – in the middle of the river. The respondent’s boat was the first out of three groups. Due to the appearance of the Turkish army, the respondent couldn’t see everybody of the 160 people to be pushed back. He only saw his boat and the second one (so around 20 people) before the officers changed the place.
The respondent watched the officers loading people back into the vehicles in order to change the place of pushback. The respondent and the people of his boat stayed for ca. 5 minutes on the island and then crossed back to Turkey. The water level was a little under his chest. The respondent described three islands near Kapikule. His group was pushed-back from the second island out of the three, estimating the coordinates to be: 41.709261, 26.355296.
Everyone in this group tried to claim for asylum but was either ignored or beaten up. Once they arrived at Turkish territory, 2 soldiers in green camouflage uniform tried to stop them but they were able to run away.