The respondent is a 24 year old Tunisian man. On July 12, at 5pm, he and six other men left from Istanbul to Meric. The group consisted of three men from Zambia as well as one Moroccan, one Algerian and another Tunisian, aged between 24 and 34 years. A smuggler took 50 € from each of them to take them across the Evros/Meric river. The smuggler then returned to Turkey and the group continued on foot.
They had walked for around 1.5km when they encountered a fence with barbed wire on top. The group decided to climb it and were just jumping off the other side when they were detected by a border patrol. The group ran away as they were afraid of a pushback. They hid in what the respondent describes as a “dry river”, around 600 metre distance from the Evros/Meriç river. The respondent cannot describe details of the officers as he was trying to hide and thus couldn’t see much but believes there may have been two or three officers and they certainly were driving a white patrol car. They stayed in hiding for 3 hours. During that time, the respondent saw a military truck arrive and stop close from their hiding place. At least two officers in camouflage uniform exited the truck and walked around for a while. When it got dark, the truck started and left. At this point the group decided to keep moving, and started walking into the opposite direction of where the truck went.
When shown images of trucks used by the Greek authorities, the respondent could not clearly identify a type but described it as sand and green camouflage coloured with a tarp.
After having walked only around 100m, the group was suddenly blinded by a flashlight. The respondent immediately turned around and ran back into hiding. The rest of the group was apprehended at this point, seemingly by the same two officers and truck.
The respondent stayed hidden for around 15 min, when one of the two officers approached his hiding spot and ordered him to get out. He complied and was subsequently ordered to sit on the ground. As soon as he did, the officer kicked the respondent in his back. The other officer had stayed behind with the rest of the transit group. It was around 11pm at this point.
The respondent was too afraid to look up and notice any details on the officers uniforms but is certain it was this one:
The officer ordered the respondent to walk to the rest of the group who were sitting on the side of an unpaved road.
By now, a total of 5 officers, all wearing the same camouflage uniform, were present and in addition to the military truck, there was a black jeep as well. The officers asked the respondent in English where he was from. He responded “from Tunisia” and was hit with a baton. Then the group was ordered to lie down, face on the ground, and not to look up. Whoever moved his head was hit with batons.
The officers searched the group and took their phones. After 15min in this position, a white van – the respondent believes a Ford Transit – arrived.
The group was ordered to get up and enter the trunk of the van. The vehicle drove for around one hour, seemingly on unpaved roads. The respondent describes the driving as fast and recalls that it was very hot inside the van and he felt like he could not breathe.
At around midnight, the van stopped and the group was ordered to exit. They found themselves in front of a detention site which the respondent describes as a ground floor building with one step leading inside where there was one big room with a door that led into a hallway which led to three cells and an office room.
Two old white vans were parked in front of the building and there were houses and fields around it, but the respondent could not see much more than that.
Seven officers were present at the detention site. They were all wearing black uniforms.
The group was beaten with wooden sticks while exiting the vehicle. Once they entered the first big room, the officers ordered them to undress. When all group members were totally naked, the officers frisked them as well as their clothes. When they were done, they threw some of the clothes back at the group and told them to get dressed.
The respondent estimates that this search took around 15min. The officers only returned t- shirts and boxers.
After that, the group was taken into one of the three cells which was approximately 6 by 5 meters in size and empty except for some old, dirty mattresses on the ground and a toilet inside. The respondent recalls that the room reeked badly.
After only 10min, another six people were taken into the cell as well. All of them were Pakistani, male and between 20 to 35 years of age. By now, 13 people were detained in that cell. None of them received water, food or medical support.
After another 10min, two of the officers in black uniform ordered the group to exit the building and embark one of the white vans the respondent had seen parked in front of the detention site earlier.
One of the officers was standing next to the vehicle’s door holding a wooden stick and used it to hit each group member while they were entering the car.
The vehicle was driven for around 45min, again on unpaved roads. They arrived in a big forest near to the Evros/Meric river next to an unpaved road which the respondent is certain is used for patrolling the border area.
A group of around 70 people was kneeling on the ground while officers were frisking them before they were ordered to embark a dinghy. The respondent is certain there were Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Moroccans and Tunisians among them, including eight women, three toddlers and several minors. The age range was between 2 and 50 years.
Seven additional officers were present at the pushback site, all wearing black uniforms and balaclavas.
One of them was speaking to the group in Syrian Arabic, asking the newly arrived group of 13 where they were from. The respondent and the other 12 group members were ordered to kneel in line as well and searched again. “Whenever one of us moved their head just a little bit, they beat us.”
Some of the other people still had some money on them and when the officers found it, they kicked them or hit them with wooden sticks and took it from them.
A dinghy was already prepared when the respondent and his group arrived. It was a white inflatable boat, a maximum of 3m long and with paddles, no engine.
The 80 people were divided into smaller groups and ordered to embark on the boat. The respondent was among the first group. Eight people plus two “officers”, both wearing black uniforms and speaking in Syrian Arabic, one also wearing a balaclava, were on that boat.
In the middle of the river, the officers ordered the group of eight to jump. The water level wasn’t high, somewhere between knee and hips for the respondent.
The respondent observed how later also women and children were ordered to jump into the river.
On the other side, around 10 Turkish soldiers in camouflage uniforms apprehended the group. They handed water bottles to the group and told them which direction to walk to the next village.
After walking around 6km, they reached Meric city.
When asked if anyone had asked for asylum in Greece, the respondent says:
“We kept asking ‘please, camp!’ but they ignored us and kept threatening us and hit us when we talked”.