The respondent, a 23-year-old male from Rika, Syria left Edirne, Turkey on the 30th of June 2021 at around 6 pm. He was traveling in a group of 11 people between the ages of 2- 45, all of whom were Syrian and of which 2 people were women. There were 3 minors in the group, one 2-year-old and two 16 and 17-year-old boys. The group walked for 5km from Edirne city to cross the Evros/Meriç River. The group waited until 10 pm whilst watching the patrol that controls the border pass and finally crossed the Evros river at an unknown point surrounded by agricultural land.
The group walked from their crossing point at the Evros/Meriç river for 20km from 10 pm until 5 am on 01/07/2021. The group was walking towards Fylakio Reception Identification Centre (RIC), in Fylakio. The group was apprehended at around 5 am, around 500 meters before the camp in an open agricultural area. The group was visible to residents of the camp when they were approached by ten officers in four cars at around 5 am. The cars arrived from several different angles and at this point, the respondent stated to these officers that he was trying to reach the camp.
Two of the police officers were wearing camouflage pants and shirts with a Greek flag on their arms and a logo of the Greek military on their chest. Four of them wore black uniforms and balaclavas. Two of them were wearing civilian clothes and two others wore sage green uniforms with shirts and pants. The cars were white and blue pickup trucks, with the word police written in English.
The respondent told the police officers that he wished to go to the camp but the police officers beat him. They started to kick and slap the women in the group and hit them with plastic batons. The officers told the group to “keep looking down and don’t move”. The officers spoke in English to the group and in Greek to each other.
The officers kept asking members of the group if they were going to the camp. Then one officer punched the respondent in the face. The officers beat the group using a branch, and also kicked and punched them. They beat members of the group, including the minors, for around 30 minutes. After this time they ordered everyone to lie face down on the ground and not lookup.
The officers took each member of the group one by one and searched them. They ordered the women to remove their jackets and headscarves and searched them ‘in a bad way,’ checking every part of their bodies.
The respondent was beaten by two officers. After the first one beat him a second one came. The respondent states that this was because he had a black star tattoo on his chest, which made the officers think that he had fought in Syria.
The police officers took phones, papers, money, jackets, sneakers, and food supplies and then loaded them into a truck. The truck was an old white Ford van with no license plate. The van drove along a paved road for around 30 minutes. Those inside the van could not see out as the van was locked from all sides.
After 30 minutes the van arrived at a detention site. There were a lot of houses nearby, a school, and people crossing the road. The building itself was grey and old and was surrounded by a fence with barbed wire. They drove the people into a hallway out of sight of people outside of the site and took them directly to a cell.
Once they arrived at the detention site at around 6 am, the officers searched the group for the second time. They forced all members of the group to remove all clothing so that everyone was totally naked. Female members of the group were naked and searched by male officers. One of the women was punched in the face during this process.
Three officers searched the group, all wearing a camouflage shirt and pants with the Greek flag on their arms. Later the respondent saw a female officer in the same uniform, but it was the male officers that searched the women.
The group was placed into a cell around 3m by 2m in size. The cell was filthy with no water and the toilet of the cell smelled very bad. There were two cells side by side. In the first cell, there were around 100 people. In the second cell, where the respondent was located, they later brought a group of 12 people from Afghanistan to join the 11 Syrian people. These 12 people were all men, and 8 of them were minors aged around 15 or 16.
The group stayed in the cell from 6 am to 6 pm without any food or water, despite people in the cell ‘begging’ for assistance. The officers did not come to take fingerprints or give any papers to anyone in the group to sign. Only one officer came to ask the group to clean the detention space. He spoke in English.
At around 6 pm the officers took the whole group to another van and loaded them into the back. This van was also white but bigger than the previous vehicle used to take the group to the first detention center. The van drove for 30 minutes until it reached another detention site. When they opened the van, the officers already held branches in their hands and started to beat the group as they got out of the van.
There were 10 officers at the new detention site, some in civilian clothes and some wearing black clothes and black balaclavas. They asked members of the group in English where they were from and they replied that they were Syrian.
The officers searched the group again and then brought them to a cell around 3m by 4m in size. The cell was incredibly crowded with 100 people inside, including 6 women. The officers repeatedly struck those in the cell on their heads with a baton. The cell was so crowded that some people were forced to stand on the toilet. The cell consisted of people from Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Eritrea, and Cameroon between 14- 47 years of age.
The group stayed in the cell for around 30 minutes while others were searched. The same 10 officers wearing black uniforms, balaclavas, or civilian clothes loaded the respondent and 40 people into a small car. The remaining 60 people from the cells were loaded into a military truck – taking all at least 100 people with them.
The officers drove the trucks quickly and recklessly for around 30 minutes to the river. The driving caused the respondents to collide with each other in the back of the truck. The trucks started to drive on a paved road, but then the route followed an unpaved road to the river. The respondent stated that it was a military road for controlling the border.
The trucks arrived at the river in a forested area where a total of 20 officers were present, all wearing balaclavas. Some officers wore a black uniform and were speaking German and others in civilian clothes were speaking Arabic. The officers who spoke Arabic told the respondent in Arabic that they were forced to search and beat respondents in front of the Greek officers or they would go back to jail. Some of the officers in the black uniform spoke both German and Arabic.
All 100 people were brought to the same point, and 3 boats were already waiting on the river. The officers called 6 men from the group to help to prepare the boats. The boats were small plastic boats and the respondent stated that they appeared to be able to support 6 people. The boats were around 2m by 1m in size and could carry 450kgs. On each boat the officers loaded 12 people from the group and 2 officers who wore civilian clothes and spoke Arabic, meaning 14 people in total. The boats did not have an engine so the officers paddled the boat across the river to an island. After leaving a group on the island, the officers went back to bring more people.
The island was large with a forest, and the respondent stayed there for 2 or 3 hours waiting for their friends and family. It was dark so it was difficult to find others.
Officers from the Turkish army then used a big torch to show the group how to cross the river from the island into Turkish territory. There were around 10 officers shouting at the group and threatening them to go back into Turkish territory. The group had to cross a high water level. The respondent said only the original group of people he arrived with crossed back into Turkey with him while the others remained on the island.
The Turkish officers behaved in a good way, they brought food and water to the group after they crossed Turkish territory. One member of the group was very exhausted and dehydrated to the point of sickness and the Turkish officers helped him. The officers asked if they had been beaten by the Greek officers.
The group walked to a small village near Uzunköprü and then took a taxi to Edirne.
The respondent states that:
‘We don’t want to stay in Greece. Nobody wants to stay in Greece and let’s hope that they stop behaving like that and crossing Greece we are not criminals we are not a source of risk this is another kind of terrorism. They kept beating us and you can lose your life at any moment.’