The respondent is a 23-year-old man from Morocco. At around 6pm on 18th March, he left on foot from Kechros, Greece with a group of 4 other men – three from Morocco and one from Algeria, crossing into Bulgaria at around 5am the next morning (19th March). The group proceeded to walk through mountainous terrain in Bulgarian territory, eventually reaching a point where they began to see villages and infrastructure.
The group continued walking and came to a highway, where a car driving past saw the group crossing the road. Once having crossed the highway, they continued walking through mountainous terrain and eventually stopped for a break. At this point, they had been walking for approximately 11 km through Bulgarian territory, in snowy weather.
At approximately 11am, while the group was resting, a dog appeared and sniffed them, then ran away and came back two more times. The dog was not wearing a muzzle. On the third time the dog appeared, it was accompanied by whom the respondent describes as an army officer, who was wearing a green uniform, including an insignia with two stars on the shoulder of his jacket. The officer shouted at the group to get them to sit down on the ground. Less than a minute later, two more officers came, whom the respondent describes as undercover police, wearing civilian clothes. All three of these officers arrived on foot.
The army officer took the group’s phones and told them to unlock them. The officers then made a call on their own phone, and two cars came; a green jeep with two officers inside wearing green army clothes, and one unmarked white car with one officer inside, wearing a civilian police uniform.
One of the army officers who arrived in the car then spoke in Turkish to one of the group members who also spoke the language. The officer asked if the group had come from Turkey or Greece. When the group member declined to answer, the officer began beating him across his body, including his face.
“He start to beat him, with everything… After 3 days he can’t walk, because his back is hurting him.”
This beating lasted for approximately 10 minutes, at which point the officer brought the group member back to sit down with the others while the officers went and had a meeting. The officers then called over the same Turkish-speaking group member and asked him, “can you tell me how you came here.” The group member again declined to respond so the officers began beating him again and accusing him of lying. This interrogation and beating lasted for approximately 20 minutes.
After this, the group was put into the white car and driven for around one hour to an abandoned building with temporary walls and no roof, forming an enclosure. Next to this structure was a big truck with cameras on it. Here, the group was split, with three people going inside the structure and two remaining outside. The respondent was taken inside the structure, where the plain-clothed police came in and took the three group members’ belongings, including jackets and sleeping bags. After checking their bags and pockets, they then allowed them to keep their food.
The two group members kept outside the structure with the army officers were beaten and stripped to their underwear in the snow, and the officers threw their clothes on the ground. They were subsequently allowed to get dressed again.
The group was held at this site for around one hour. The group asked to eat their own food (which they had been allowed to keep) but the officers did not let them eat, or go to the toilet. After one hour, the group was driven for around 30 minutes to a point at the border marked by a sign (41.289571, 25.712140). At the border, the group was let out of the car and the Turkish-speaking officer gave them directions to reach Komotini, and told them to cross back into Greece. The officers did not return their phones or other possessions.
The group re-entered Greece in the evening; the respondent estimated that this was around 5pm, as the sun was setting. They then proceeded to walk. They passed by a big windmill/wind turbine and after three hours reached a small village where they found an empty house to spend the night.