In the third week of July, a group of 7 people – 3 Syrians and 4 Moroccans – crossed the over the border from Turkey into Greece near Alibay/Karayousof. On the Greek side, the group described walking through several stretches of forest and then through several fields until they arrived at the hills of Lavara. As they continued, the next day they ran out of water. The group then continued walking for another day until they arrived at a place the respondent called Mantinex/Mantinixi – most probably a village called Mavrokklisi, but he could not remember the exact name.
By then they were extremely thirsty. A young Syrian in the group was so exhausted and dehydrated that he could not continue walking. The group then split up, with the Moroccan group-members continuing and the Syrian group-members spending the night in a place between Lavara and the village. On the third day without water, the Syrian splinter-group were desperate. The respondent recalled:
“The water became a dream. I reached the point, where the water became the top priority. I must get water, not Europe. More important than the arrival in Europe was the water. My last state of mind was, just give me any water, I don’t want to reach Europe anymore. We suffered a lot.”
Eventually, the group made their way into a village up in the hills [exact location unconfirmed]. There was a church and a graveyard. The graveyard had a water tap where they filled their bottles and recovered for one day. Finally, when they were leaving the village, the Greek police approached the group and apprehended them. The officers were described as having drawn and pointed their firearms at the group, and ordered them to empty their bags and pockets, even pull out the strings from their shoes and remove their belts.
After this initial exchange, the group was led into a vehicle and driven to either a police station or a detention center close to Alexandroupoli, a 40 min drive from the village [likely Soufli, Tychero, Feres or Poros]. At the station, the respondent described that they were called terrorists. The respondent asked for permission to send a message to his mother, but the officers did not allow it and reiterated that they were terrorists. The respondent recalled one of the officers taking his phone and bank card and putting it into his pocket. The Syrian boy had 20EUR. The officer took 10 EUR and gave him back 10 EUR.
After the officers searched their bodies, they put them in a place the respondent described to have looked like a storage room. It was small, around 5x6m. Four people were there, two Syrians, one Moroccan, and one Libyan. Within less than 30 minutes, five Afghans were taken into that room as well, one hour later ten Pakistanis. After another hour, a Syrian family with three kids (a girl and two boys), after that an Iranian family of six, three little girls [9, 12, and 13 years old respectively] with their parents and an uncle. After a while, a Lebanese boy, who had claimed to be Palestinian was taken there, later ten Pakistanis and five Afghans. Many more people were taken there later on as well, 68 in total. The respondent cannot recall the demographics of the whole group. All had been caught by police shortly after they had crossed the border.
On the first day in detention, the detained group-members did not receive any water or food. The next day, the kids became hungry. The adults tried to call the officers, but nobody responded for hours. Eventually an officer came and they asked him for food and water for the kids. He responded by saying “Just because you came illegally, you are illegal migrants arriving in our country like thieves.” After a while, a woman came, around 40 years old. The respondent tried to convince her to bring some food for the children. She left and came back with biscuits for the children.
An hour or two later, at around 11:00 am, the respondent described that an Iranian lady in detainment began shaking, sweating, her heartbeat raised. She did not speak any English, so the respondent involved himself in the situation and translated the situation to the officers there. The same male officer from before arrived. The officer arrived, yelled at them and cursed them. The respondent looked at the officer and told him the woman is dying. He answered: “she can die, who told her to come here?” The respondent begged for an ambulance or medics or anyone who could help her. The officer replied:
“Even if we had one, we would not bring him to see you.”
The respondent asked the officer if he would answer a question, the officer told him yes. The respondent asked:
“Is the Greek government forbidding you to give us food and water or is it you, you don’t like refugees, so you don’t want to give us any water or food?”
He replied he could not answer that question. The respondent replied: “It’s fine, we got the answer, the government forbids you to give us any food or water. But if you can just give us something to support this lady.” The officer looked at the respondent and told him to wait for 5 minutes. He then returned with an effervescent tablet of Vitamin C, painkiller, water, and a little food. He also told them they had two hours left before they would be sent back.
After two hours, three military lorries came and the whole group was put on them. They were searched once more, especially for phones.
The respondent asked the officer on which spot they would be pushed back to Turkey to be able to plan how to get to Istanbul then. The officer told him they would be pushed back between Uzunköprü and Ipsala, at the beginning of Uzunköprü. It turned out to be true. The same officer also recommended the group to continue walking towards the left side on the other side of Evros, as Turkish police would find them on the right and would then catch them and take them into quarantine for 15 days because of Covid- 19. All told, 68 people were pushed back over the Evros/Meric river at once and then walked to a place they cannot remember. Smugglers were waiting for them and told them they would take them to Istanbul for 1000 to 1200 Lira. They continued walking to Uzunköprü, another 10km, and went to the bus station. Some did not have any shoes left, others only flip flops.
The respondent had not heard from the Moroccans that he crossed with since they split up.
The respondent emphasized that the Greek officers did not beat anyone, except for one Egyptian man who got aggressive and cursed the officers. They beat him heavily with a wooden stick.