He started his journey in Istanbul on the 13th of May. The respondent and the three other men crossed all together and arrived in Greek territory at 5 pm, 13.05.2022. For 3 hours they hid between the trees until the sun set and continued walking in Greece.
At around 9 pm they passed by some villages on their way after that they walked through agricultural lands mainly. The group kept on walking for the whole night and continued for 4 days in total. During the day they rested and walked at night. They walked between 15 – 20 km every night through hills, forests, mountains and tried to stay away from villages. One member of the group had been pushed back several times and recommended staying outside of the villages.
After 4 days they walked on an unpaved road in the forest and reached the village Sidirio at 8 am of 17th of May 2022.
The transit group was apprehended on the same day at 11 am. They walked up a large hill near an unpaved road, about 3 km far from the above-mentioned village. First, 3 men in green shirts and pants with black boots appeared (image 1). After 5 minutes another car arrived with 2 additional men. One of them was dressed in a black, unidentified uniform (with no logo or insignia), the other one was dressed in a marine blue uniform. The uniformed man in blue was wearing a shirt that had “Police” written on it in Greek letters and a logo on his left sleeve (image 2). All of them were armed with black plastic batons in their holster, and some of them were additionally holding handguns or submachine guns.
The respondent identified the uniforms to be similar to the following images:
The first 3 uniformed men (in green) arrived in a black Jeep. The other 2 men in a white vehicle (according to the respondent the brand was either Jeep or Land Rover) which carried blue stripes on it and “Police” written on it. Both had Greek license plates. The respondent recognized the vehicles to look similar to the ones in the following images.
Image 7: Unmarked black Cherokee Jeep
The apprehension took place as follows:
The respondent’s group was sitting next to an unpaved road in the forest, resting for a while after their long walk. Because of exhaustion they fell asleep and woke up because one of the uniformed men was kicking their legs to wake them up. The other 2 uniformed men were pointing guns in the faces of the POM. 10 minutes later, the white Jeep appeared. The first men in uniform only said “wake up” and talked to the respondent’s friend in English. He asked where they were from and where they came from and took their phones. Among themselves, the uniformed men spoke in Greek. A man in a black uniform, who arrived in the white Jeep took a picture of the respondent and his 3 friends and then told them to stand up in English. The respondents were asked multiple times if they were aware of other groups of people-on-the-move.
The group’s phones were taken and they were beaten a few times with plastic batons.
“They asked ‘You want to go to Europe?’ and he laughed and I [said] ‘yes’. My English wasn’t good enough to explain to him all, so I told him [that] I want to go to the camp. He kept laughing and suddenly he hit me with the baton on my back”.
The men in black uniforms were the only ones speaking in English to the respondent and the others in the group, the other men in green and blue uniforms only spoke Greek.
After 1 hour at the apprehension point, the uniformed men made the group walk to where their vehicles were parked. Another hour passed while they sat on the ground, waiting. Then, a white old transit van “with old tires and old rusty sides and paint” arrived and the group was loaded into the trunk. The respondent mentioned the car could have been a Fiat or Renault with Greek license plate, but recognized the vehicle to look the same as the image 8.
Two men in civilian clothing sat in that van. They were dressed in civilian half sleeve shirts and sport pants, one of them wore balaclavas. The other one stayed in the van as he was the driver. They did not talk to the respondent and only one got out of the car, opened the trunk door and loaded the respondent and his three friends in it.
Already 5 other people were detained in the trunk. All of them were between 20 and 28 years old from Syria, with two women among them. The 5 people explained that they had lost their group near to Thessaloniki and were apprehended there.
The trunk was 4 by 3 meters in size with no windows. The drive was fast and over many potholes for 5 minutes, and then calm for 50 minutes. 5 minutes before arriving at the detention site, they drove on an unpaved road again. In total the drive lasted for about 1 hour. They arrived at the yard of a detention site at approximately 2 pm. The whole group was taken out of the van and brought to a room where they had to wait for 15 minutes until 4 men came to search them.
The respondent was not able to see much outside the detention site but recalled seeing 4 or 3 cars (among them one green camouflage truck and two white vans, see images 10 and 11 below) and a wire fence of 2 meters height. The detention building had a hallway and a big room where everyone was searched. The cell they were brought to later was located in the same hallway. The building itself was white and with a flat roof in the front part. Behind that it had an open gable with red bricks on the top.
Image 9: Unimog Truck
The detention site was described as being in the forest, with no other buildings nearby. Besides one Greek flag on the building, there were no other official signs of police or army.
Over 15 uniformed men were present at the detention site, 8 of them wore camouflage green uniforms with the greek flag stitched to their arm sleeves (image 11). 4 of them wore marine blue uniforms with “police” written on it and the greek flag on the left arm sleeve (image 12). 2 or 3 men wore uniforms consisting of sage green shirts and pants, identified by image 13.
All of them were armed with guns which they carried in their holsters.
The men in black uniform who arrived with them were holding metal batons.
The uniformed men asked the group to get totally undressed.
“We tried to hide our sensitive parts because the women were with us in the same room, [but] they let us [stay] naked and searched the women. And their way of searching women – it was nasty. [The uniformed man] kept moving his hands all over her sensitive places and when she pushed his hand he would push her hand away and act like he was searching. [The woman] was crying, he screamed at her, took her jacket and while she was leaving he called her back and asked her to take off the shoes. Then he took them to the cell. And we were completely naked the whole time”.
The search lasted for 20 minutes, then the men in blue and green uniforms (in total 4) started beating the group with the metal baton for 30 minutes. Everybody (except the women) was beaten, the respondent was specifically beaten on his hands. The uniformed men took everything from them: Money, backpacks, shoes, food which they had in the bags, cigarettes. The clothes were thrown back to them “like garbage” and they were asked to wear anything, “so we were wearing each other’s clothes, anything we could find”.
Afterwards they were taken to a cell, which was 10 by 5 meters in size. It had a gable roof, the ground was dirty, there were no windows and it was full of people. About 100 people were detained in the cell already. They were from Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Morocco and Libya. Their ages ranged from 15 to 60 years and among them were 4 women (all from Syria) and about 7 – 9 minors. After the respondent joined them, they were held in that cell for 3 hours, no water or food nor medical assistance was provided. No fingerprints or photos were taken.
After 3 hours, 4 of the men in green and blue uniform, who had already been at the detention site, took the people on the move from the cell and loaded them in the trunks of two vehicles. One of them was a white unidentified van, the other was the green camouflage military truck that was parked outside (see image 10). It had chairs on both sides and a window on one side. The respondent and 60 other people, including all the women were loaded in the trunk of the military vehicle. During the drive, they kept colliding against each other. The driving itself was normal, but the respondent could see that the other car, the van, was speeding. The drive lasted for around 20 minutes. They passed by many agricultural fields and a river and arrived at a forest where the van was already parked.
At around 6:30 pm they arrived at the pushback point. The surrounding landscape was a small forest, a big agricultural field, and 2 unpaved roads. In total 7 uniformed men were at the site, 4 wore green camouflage uniform with the greek flag stitched on their arm sleeves (cf. image 14), and 2 wore marine blue uniforms with white, unidentified letters but subsequently recognized as identical to those shown in image 13. The men in camouflage uniforms stood aside and watched.
Additionally, 4 men dressed in civilian clothing speaking Arabic and Farsi were present. The men in civilian clothing, as well as the ones in black and blue uniform, wore balaclavas.
The men in blue and black uniforms held metal batons while their guns were in the holster.
The uniformed men spoke to the men in civilian clothes who translated to the respondent and the group – in Farsi and Arabic (Syrian dialect). The orders were to remain silent, not to make any noise and especially not to hide anything. They were supposed to stay in a group of 8. The uniformed men started searching everyone, group by group. Everybody, including the women, was being searched again by uniformed men.
The respondent wore a shirt and pants at that point. He could barely walk and was limping with his leg. The man in black uniform was holding a metal baton and started beating the respondent and his friend for about 3 minutes. They were beaten all over their bodies, also on the head and the already injured leg. “One of the blows struck my head so hard that I lost contact with the world for a moment and thought I was going to die”.
Some minors were beaten as well. The respondent was in the middle of the people waiting to be pushed back. Divided into groups of ten they were loaded into an old rubber boat. It was deep blue on the outside and gray on the inside and 3 by 2 meters in size. The boat had no engine but a paddle and 2 of the civilian-dressed men were paddling it. The other two were searching people together with the uniformed men.
The respondent waited approx. 30 minutes to get loaded in the boat. They drove 4 meters into the river and had to jump in the water and continue swimming. The water level was a little bit above the respondents waist. At 6 pm, all 100 people on the move had been pushed back.
After arriving at Turkish territory, the respondent waited for his friends. “Everybody was running from the border with their wet clothes”.
Once his friends came they started walking. One of them could barely walk as his leg was beaten so hard and they were barefoot.
After 40 minutes they arrived at a village called Saçlımüsellim where they found many taxis on the one side of the road. The respondent’s friend told him to pick a taxi, because he couldn’t walk anymore. They told the taxi driver that he would get paid once they arrived.
After 40 minutes they arrived in Edirne. The intention to claim asylum was expressed when they got apprehended. “The officer hit me with the plastic baton on my back and laughed. They know the war in Libya, but they don’t care and never care.”