The respondent, a 22-year-old male from Rika, Syria, traveled from close to Edirne, Turkey, to Greece by boat on the Evros river. The respondent, together with a group of 9 people, walked for 4 hours from the border, before being apprehended about 30 minutes walking from the village of Elaia, Greece (41.617616, 26.314344).
The respondent states that the group was stopped by two cars carrying four officers at around midnight on the night of June 13th, 2021. One of the cars was white, with ‘Police’ written in English on the side and the other was an old white Ford car. The respondent remembers that two of the officers in the cars were wearing a sage green uniform and two were wearing civilian clothes, all of them wearing balaclavas. The respondent understood that these were police officers as they carried guns and batons although they did not have any flag or insignia on their uniform.
These four officers in balaclavas beat the men of the group using batons and plastic sticks. The men were searched and their phones and personal belongings were confiscated. The respondent estimates that this process took around 30 minutes. Following this the group was forced to wait for 30 minutes for the arrival of a white van.
After the van arrived, the group was loaded into the back of the van by the officers. Inside the van were a further 15 people, all of them Syrian males. 2 of this group were minors aged 15 and 16. The van drove for 45 minutes along with a mixture of paved and unpaved roads. The respondent added that the van drove fast and recklessly.
At around 1:30 am, the van arrived at a detention site where there was a building next to a church and some houses. The building was surrounded by a cement wall with a barbed wire fence on top. Inside the building were 6 or 7 officers. All of them were wearing a sage green uniform, as the officers before, except for one that was wearing a black uniform. 4 of the officers in sage green uniforms were also wearing balaclavas. On the back of the black uniform, the word ‘Police’ was written in English. The respondent identified that one of the officers was wearing a light blue armband that he identified as similar to the Frontex uniform as seen in the picture below. This officer spoke to the group in English.
The officers removed the respondent and his group from the back of the van and searched them. Then, the group was put into a line, and 3 officers wearing the sage green uniform searched them from each side of the line, while the other officers watched. The male group members were instructed to remove their shoes and jackets and the officers confiscated money, phones, shoes, clothing, food and water that they found on those searched. Some of the clothes were returned following the search, but some people did not have their clothes returned to them. There were no female officers present, and the male officers attempted to search the women in the group. However, after the women began shouting, they searched the women only with a scanning machine.
Following the searching process, the officers took the group to a small cage/holding cell for around 30 minutes before transferring the group to an actual cell. The cell was around 8 meters by 5 meters and the respondent said that it was not clean. There was a bad odor and insects on the floor. Inside the cell there were uncovered metal beds, but that was the only furnishing.
Throughout the night and morning, between 1:30 am and 3 am, more people were brought to the cell. The respondent estimates that there ended up being around 50 or 55 people in total that were held inside the cell, including 9 women. Those inside the cell were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Palestine. The youngest person in the cell was a 13-year-old boy from Afghanistan and the eldest was around 40.
The group was held in the cell from 1:30 am until 3 pm the following day, June 14th, 2021. During this time the group was denied food or water additionally medical assistance was denied to the injured people in the cell. The officers spoke with the group in the cell in English but spoke to each other in a language the respondent identified as Greek. The officers told the group in the cell that in the morning they would be taken to a camp to sign a paper. An English-speaking person in the group attempted to explain that the group had come to Greece to claim asylum in Europe, but he was beaten by the officers. There was no translator provided to translate for those who did not speak English.
At 3 pm on the 14th of June 2021, the group was transferred from the cell to a large green Mercedes truck that was around 3 meters by 2 meters in size. The respondent understood it was a military vehicle. A total of 10 officers were present while the group was loaded into the truck including those officers that had been present during the night. All officers were wearing balaclavas at this point. The new officers were wearing a camouflage green and black uniform. Four of the ten officers accompanied the group from the site of detention, driving for around 45 minutes until they arrived at the Evros river. The van was accompanied by four officers in camouflage black and green uniforms. For around 15 minutes, the van drove on a paved road, and then drove the rest of the way on an unpaved road.
During this time, the truck moved fast and the driving was reckless, causing those in the back of the van to collide with each other. They also struggled to breathe comfortably due to the overcrowding.
After the van arrived at the river, there were other men waiting in black uniforms. The men were wearing balaclavas and did not have any sign or logo stating for which institution they worked. These officers spoke in Arabic, English, Kurdish and Turkish, but spoke to each other in English. In total there were 10 officers, four in the camouflage uniform and six in the black uniform.
The site of the river was close to a small unpaved road, surrounded by forest and agricultural land. On the river were two small plastic boats without engines that were around 2 meters by 1 meter in size. One boat was white and the other one was blue. Aside from those transported in the truck, there were 10 more Syrian people waiting at the side of the river with the officers. This was 2 women and their children. The age range of this group was 2 to 35 years.
The officers searched the group two at a time, including searching inside men’s boxer shorts. Then the group was loaded into the boats. 2 officers in black uniforms who spoke arabic were sitting in each boat, and then approximately 10 members of the detained group were loaded into each boat. The officers spoke in Arabic telling them to be quiet and not to make noise and to move quickly into Turkish territory to avoid being seen by the Turkish army. The respondent stated that the boat felt very dangerous and those in the boat were very afraid of drowning.
The officers paddled the boat to a small island in the middle of the Evros river, where it was possible to walk through the river to the Turkish territory. The respondent waited for one hour on the island for the remainder of his family to cross the river. The entire group eventually crossed into Turkish territory.
The respondent and his family walked for 30 minutes to a small village near Uzunköprü. From there they took a taxi 70km back to the town of Edirne.