The respondent is a 28-year-old man from Algeria who was pushed back from Greece to Turkey at the Evros/Meriç River border area on the 2nd of May 2022. The respondent was apprehended at 3 AM on 2nd May 2022 near Orestiada, along with six other men from Algeria and Morocco.
The transit group crossed the Evros River and walked for four hours through agricultural lands before they suspect they were detected by infrared cameras. He recalled that two individuals in a blue and white car arrived but as it was dark he could not identify the vehicle’s brand or number plate. The group hid in a bush while the men in uniform that came in the blue and white car used flashlights to find them, and then fired shots in the air which caused two members of the transit group to run. The uniformed men then discovered the two members of the group and allegedly kicked them. Additionally, the officers blinded the transit group with torches impairing their vision. The respondent recounted that the transit group was held until two plain-clothed officers in a middle-sized white van arrived on the scene, and took pictures of the group. The respondent reported that there was no possibility to ask for asylum because “if you speak you’ll get beaten immediately”.
The transit group was then taken to what the respondent described as a ‘camp’ an estimated 20-minute drive from the point of apprehension. According to him, the ‘camp’ was surrounded by a fence, and inside there was “a small pitch” made of astroturf and a wall, preventing him from seeing how big the site was. He described that there were many people here but could see no signage indicating if the facility was a police station or detention centre as it was nighttime. Approximately 8 men, some described as wearing green uniforms and others black, searched the transit group and confiscated their backpacks, phones and wallets. Additionally, the respondent reported that the transit group’s extra layers of clothes, shoe laces and drawstrings from their pants were removed and if they spoke they were reportedly beaten. The group was then held in a “disgusting” cell approximately “2 or 3sqm” in size, denied food, and could only drink water from the toilet tap which the respondent said was “not clean”. In an adjacent cell was a group of 25 people but the respondent could not identify their nationalities as there was no opportunity to speak to them.
After 3 or 4 hours in the cell, the transit group was woken up abruptly, taken outside of the cell and put into a camo-coloured medium-sized “military truck”. The respondent explained that they drove for 30 mins until they arrived at a second site but as it was nighttime and before sunrise it was difficult to see clearly. At this second site, a group of more than 200 people were collected. When asked about the nationalities and ages of the large group, the respondent said there were no women, two male minors approximately ten or twelve years old with “many nationalities” including Afghanistan, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, and Pakistan. They drove for a reported 30 mins before arriving at the river. The respondent estimated that upon leaving the ‘camp’ in which they were detained, driving to the second site and then to the river took about an hour.
The “military truck” parked 5 mins from the river, the group was led down a track to the river and instructed to sit down. The respondent recalled that there were approximately 9 men with balaclavas wearing green camo and black uniforms but he did not notice any insignia or logo on the uniforms. One of the masked individuals reportedly used a small grey drone to ensure there were no authorities on the other side of the river, which is Turkish territory. According to the respondent, at the river were inflated non-motorised dinghies. He further explained that the group was put into batches and searched for money before being put into the dinghies. He described how the officers “beat you hard” with batons that cause the skin to turn immediately “red and blue” if they found any money that was not handed over. People in the transit group were reportedly beaten again when they were in the dinghies. When asked what languages the men in balaclavas spoke, the respondent said Shami (an Arabic dialect spoken in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria), some Turkish and Greek but mainly English. He said they were subjected to verbal abuse by the men and insulted in “many languages”. The respondent reported that in each dinghy, there were groups of 15 people with two drivers who used paddles to take them across the river.
When asked about the surroundings crossing the river, he said there was a forest and a mountain on the Turkish side. He said that when they reached the Turkish side, there was no road, just the mountain, which they had to climb otherwise “you are trapped”. According to the respondent, when they reached the bottom of the mountain, they saw people who resembled the Turkish army and some members of the transit group ran away. He and his friends stayed as they had no shoes, extra layers of clothing, phone, or money. The Turkish army reportedly gave them food, water and shoes and instructed them to wait there while they retrieved more shoes for the group. At this point allegedly, individuals who the respondent described as the Turkish Gendarmerie, wearing dark-blue uniforms, arrived with one bus and a van. The respondent explained that they were a group of 50 people and were transported to a ‘camp’ in Edirne which was approximately a two-hour drive away. At this ‘camp’, they were detained for four days, subjected to violence, and denied food and water. The respondent described the treatment they experienced as “punishment” and added that “animals are way better treated than us”.