It was the third time that the respondent was pushed back. This time, they took a boat leaving from Marmaris to Rhodos Island on July 23. They managed to arrive on Rhodos island and thought they had finally succeeded.
Right after they arrived at the beach, officers approached them. Some from the group told them they wanted to continue to Germany after fleeing the war in Syria. The police officers informed them that they would take them to a camp for a few days and then transport them to Athens from where they would be free to go to wherever they wanted to. Therefore the whole group followed the officers to a prison-like detention center, with three tents and one toilet. One Syrian family was already detained there. The officers denied all their demands for water, food, medication and baby milk. They constantly asked for food but were told there was none for them. They were allowed to use the toilet, but some men from the group were forced to clean it. There were no showers and no water.
One day later, an employee allegedly from the UNHCR came and finally brought food and water. As the 2 month old baby was sick and severely dehydrated, the UNHCR worker took that family to the hospital from where they had to return to the detention center.
They stayed at that detention center for four days. On the fourth day, at 8 pm, police told them they would transfer them to Lesvos. They took all their belongings – passports, phones and money – telling them they would return it after their arrival on Lesvos. Several officers which were described as ‘soldiers’ came to accompany the group to the beach. They wore military uniforms and carried weapons. No physical violence was used.
The officers embarked the whole group on a boat. After 3 and a half hours, the group was transferred onto a floating platform. They were 25 people, 15 of them children. One 11 year old boy was blind. Two families were Congolese, one man Palestinian and all the others were Syrian. The Palestinian man has refugee status in Germany, a German lawyer working on his case for him to be able to return to Germany.
The blind child almost fell into the water while they were transferred onto the floating platform but luckily one man of the group managed to get hold of him, preventing him from falling into the sea. None of the officers reacted.
“My eleven year old son yelled at the Greek soldiers, begging them for mercy and humanity, convinced we would die in that moment”.
After they had all been transferred onto the platform, the group was abandoned at sea. It was around 11 pm when the Greek officers left. They were drifting for five hours until 4 am. Water was coming in and they had to constantly pour it out with their hands. The waves were high.
“I can’t believe Germany allows this to happen. If they know this and do agree, I prefer to return back to the bombs in my country and die there than witness this lack of humanity and mercy.”
One man had previously managed to hide his phone in the diapers of his baby daughter, which allowed them to take videos to document their situation and call the Turkish coast guard who finally came to rescue them at 4 am.
They were subsequently taken back to Marmaris from were they went to Izmir. After several days on the streets in Izmir, the respondent and her children took a bus to Istanbul where they are currently staying. She wants to continue trying to reach Germany as she sees no future in or possibility of staying in Turkey.