On May 29, the respondent, a 26-year-old man from Algeria, crossed into Greece from Uzunköprü, Turkey. He was brought with a group to the Evros River by a smuggler and then walked alone in Greece for four days, mostly through wooded areas but sometimes close to roads.
Near a highway about five kilometres before Komotini, the respondent was apprehended by six officers wearing green camouflage uniforms with balaclavas in a green military truck. He was sleeping near the road when he was woken up by the officers kicking him. He recalled:
“They searched me and took the Quran from me. He opened the book and asked me ‘What is this?’ and I told him ‘It’s the Quran.’ He told me ‘Fuck you and fuck Quran’ and threw it.”
The officers made the respondent strip down to his boxers and searched him. They hit him with a metal baton, punched him, and kicked him for around 45 minutes. They spoke a little English but mostly spoke in Greek; the respondent only understood a couple of words like “malaka” (“asshole”) and “kalispera” (“good afternoon”). They asked him where he was from and he told them.
After around 45 minutes a doctor wearing civilian clothes, including a black shirt, arrived. The officers had called him because the respondent said:
“…one of the officers hit me in my chest—I couldn’t breathe properly so they called him. He came after 45 min and he thought I was acting; then he started kicking me and checking me violently.”
Then the officers put the respondent in the back of the truck, where he found several other people. He said, “…they kept gathering people; in the end there were around 24 people inside.” The other people were of Syrian, Iraqi, Morrocan, and Tunisian origins and included three women, one of whom was pregnant, a 7-month-old baby, a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a man over 50 years of age.
The group was driven about two hours along both dirt and paved roads; the driver drove “recklessly, like he was carrying animals, not humans.” Four of the officers stayed behind while two drove the truck. They arrived at a forest along the Evros river; it was nighttime so the respondent said it was dark and he “couldn’t see too much.” At the site, there were around 16 more people being pushed back and approximately 21 officers. The respondent recalled:
“They had on different uniforms: black uniforms and green camouflage uniforms and the ones driving the boat were wearing camouflage jackets and civilian pants…they kept beating everyone…even the women. They even beat the pregnant woman; I saw the blood come out from her leg. They searched us again to take what was left after the first search.”
The officers kicked the group and used a metal baton to hit them.
The boat was ready when they arrived; it was a grey plastic paddleboat driven by two officers who spoke Arabic with a Syrian accent. They loaded ten people in the boat at a time, which the respondent said “could not accommodate that amount and so water got in the boat from the weight.” The boat was driven to a small island with a few trees on it and the people were told to jump out. All 40 people were brought to the island, where the respondent said they spent about an hour until “…the Turkish army heard us screaming and they sent us a big boat with two soldiers driving it to help us cross.” There were over 20 Turkish soldiers dressed in camouflage. From the pushback site, which occurred near Dhidhimotikhon, Greece, and Kiremitçisalih, Turkey, it was about 47 kilometres to Edirne. The respondent walked along an unpaved road until he got to the main road and then he passed a gas station and saw a sign that said Edirne was six kilometers away.
While in Greece, the respondent said he asked for asylum, but that “one of the officers told me fuck you and fuck asylum.” He also recalled, “I even asked for a bottle of water; he emptied the bottle in front of me and hit me with it and the doctor that was supposed to help me beat me as well.” When asked if he had anything else to add, the respondent said:
“I wish that this violence and humiliation would end and they would let people cross, because we are asking for human rights and we already don’t want to stay in Greece. Why do they stop us?”