“With our hands handcuffed, they threw us into the water of Evros river”

  • Date and time: June 21, 2020 21:00
  • Location: İpsala, Edirne, Turkey
  • Coordinates: 40.93975254650879, 26.37059505273438
  • Push-back from: Greece
  • Push-back to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 80-90 person(s), age: 6 months to 50 years old , from: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, DR Congo
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, handcuffed, thrown into river
  • Police involved: Around 20 officers involved, some in blue Greek uniform, some dressed in black with masks, a few speaking Turkish
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent had been living in Greece for many months and had applied for asylum, settling in Athens. He had his first interview and had been issued a white card which is valid until September 2020. He had been waiting for his final interview, set for May 2021. He went to Alexandroupolis from Athens as part of his job. The purpose of the trip was to visit a stables where his employer wanted to buy a horse (the respondent works in a proffesional stables in Athens).

On the morning of 21st June, at around 10:00, police in blue uniform stopped him in a town 20km from Alexandroupolis and asked to see his papers. He did not understand as he couldn’t speak Greek. Because he was unable to answer the police responded by beating him with a wire. After several minutes, a white van came, driven by a man dressed in black and wearing a black mask. The respondent was forced to get in the car and was taken to a police station, the drive took about two hours, there were no windows in the van so the respondent doesn’t know where it was. 

He was detained there for two hours and then taken to a detention center where 80 to 90 other people were detained. This included both men and women from Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan and different other nationalities.

Police there took everything from them – money, mobile, belt, clothes, shoelaces and whatever else they had – and put the people into cells.

Two policemen in uniform and one “commando soldier” (dressed in black and wearing ski mask) were taking refugees one by one to a room. Whether he/she was man or woman, they were beating him/her violently and brutally before loading them into a dark green camouflage lorry.

They were beating them not with batons, but with thick wooden sticks. The police took off their clothes and left them naked. The respondent was severely hit on his torso, arms, knees and head. In his case it was specifically one “commando” man cooperating with two uniformed officers.

Other than these three, around 20 policemen and other staff were present at the detention center. The respondent says that all of them spoke Greek and some spoke Turkish as well.

Access to toilets, water and food was denied throughout:

“From the time I got arrested till the time we were brought to Evros river, we were not allowed to have access to any basic needs.”

After eight hours in detention, the military style lorry took them to the Evros river. The drive was around 30min. They proceeded beating them for one hour and used zip ties to handcuff them. With their hands handcuffed, they threw them into the water of Evros river. The respondent and some others couldn’t swim, other refugees helped them stay afloat. This was around sunset, approximately 21:00 on 21st June 2020.

When they arrived on Turkish territory after crossing the river by swimming, the respondent was unconscious. Afghan, Kurdish, Syrian, Arab and Iranian guys with their money helped them reach Istanbul by paying a driver to take them.

The respondent can’t remember anything after they threw them into the river but his friends told him that from the border they went by foot to a place where they called a taxi from the phone of a Turkish local and arrived in Istanbul a few hours later.

The respondent only woke up once they had arrived in Istanbul. He says he is still in unbearable pain. His whole body is bruised due to severe blows (pictures and video of the bruises available). He was beaten and kicked on his head, torso, abdomen, arms and legs by the one commando man at the detention center that he had to throw up several times.

The respondent later took a video of his injuries and said:

“This is what they did to us. Do we have the right to asylum or not? Does the international law not say that every human being has the right to ask for asylum? What kind of right is this? Does the European Union have the right of beating and torture? How can the commandos beat us like this! And then put you in the river while your hands are tied! This is our situation as refugees. They beat every part of your body with a stick. They take you to a room and then beat everyone. They have neither mercy nor compassion towards women nor men. They are taking your money, phones and then put you in river while you hands are cuffed.”