The respondent is a 32-year-old man from Morocco. He was travelling in a group of six men, who are all from Morocco. They started their journey on 19th November from Edirne at around 8pm. The respondent reported that they walked approximately 7km to the Greek border, arriving around 10pm. After crossing the border, the group walked for around 3 hours into Greece. The respondent explained that the transit group lost their water supplies while crossing the border and were consequently looking for a place to take a drink. As they were approaching a church to find water, the respondent described seeing a big flashing light so hid in the corner of the church.
The respondent believed the officers were wearing night vision goggles and were therefore able to find them quickly. Reportedly, the officers arrived in what the respondent described as a white and blue Skoda with “POLICE” written on it and blue and red sirens on top. The other was reportedly a blue civilian car, believed to be a Clio or Meganne. The final vehicle was described by the respondent as a pickup truck.
The respondent reported that there were at least 10 officers inside the cars. He recalled that some officers wore a green camouflage military uniform, and some wore olive green, both carrying the Greek flag patch. Other officers wore black uniforms without logos. The respondent noted that all of the officers were carrying firearms, some large and some smaller.
Then, the respondent reported that the officers then forced the group to hand over their phones and lie down on the ground. Their phones were not returned to them. This was around 1 or 2 am on the 20th November.
After lying on the ground for around 10 minutes, the respondent said he saw a van drive right up to the space where the group were lying. The respondent explained that the van came so close that he was afraid he would be hit by it. Then he reported that an officer kicked the respondent and the group, telling them to get up and take their bags. The van was described as an old white Mercedes transit van.
The officers subsequently loaded the group into the van and drove for around 20 minutes on an unpaved road. The driving was reported as extremely reckless and at one point a member of the group hit his head on the side of the van.
The respondent could not see clearly in the dark but stated that they arrived at a detention site that looked like a house with a big yard and old walls covered in peeling paint. The site was surrounded by a fence with barbed wire on top. The group were reportedly searched in the yard before being taken inside where a total of 8 officers were present. These officers wore the olive-green uniform as detailed previously, with the Greek flag logo on their arm.
The officers reportedly told the group to put their bags in the garbage and empty their pockets. The respondent said that 3 officers put gloves on and told the group to undress to be searched. The respondent further reported that the group was totally naked for around 10 minutes while they were searched by the officers. The only thing the group was allowed to keep was their money, which they took with them into the cell. This was at around 3 am.
The cell was described as roughly 4m by 5m, and inside were 10 more people aged between 19-35. Their nationalities were Syrian, Afghan and one Palestinian. All of the detainees were male. The group stayed in the cell for around 8 hours, and more people were brought throughout the night and morning. By the end there were around 80 people in the cell, from Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Morocco, and Algeria. In this group, there were 4 women, and one young girl estimated to be 1-years-old. The oldest person in the cell was around 65-years-old.
At around 10am on the 20th November, the respondent said that 10 officers came to the cell. These officers were reportedly not wearing a uniform, but civilian jeans and jackets with black balaclavas. Some of the officers spoke in Arabic saying, ‘Come out mother fucker, go outside.’
The men in balaclavas subsequently loaded the group into the same old white Mercedes vans as before. There were reportedly 2 vans, both without logos or any markings.
The group were split into two vans of around 35-40 people each, and then reportedly drove on an unpaved road for around 15 minutes. There was no windows to view the outside, and the respondent said that those in the van struggled to stay upright while driving.
The vans arrived at the side of the river, with a small path between the trees in the forest. The men in balaclavas reportedly told the group to come out of the van and not make a sound. Some of the men in balaclavas continued to speak in Arabic, they reportedly said ‘give up your money and that will save you from getting beaten.’ Almost everyone in the group gave money, and those that refused or tried to hide their money were reportedly hit with a tree branch 3 times, and then searched again. Women were also said to be beaten, and the men in balaclavas took money, shoes and jackets from everyone according to the respondent.
There was already one plastic boat waiting by the side of the river when the vans arrived. The boat had only a paddle rather than an engine. The respondent reported that they were loaded nine people into a boat, which he said made the boat very unstable as it was only meant to accommodate 4. The boat was then paddled into the middle of the river, then everyone was ordered to get out and go quickly into Turkish territory. Multiple trips were made to ferry people across the river.
After the group arrived on the other side of the river, they ran barefoot to Kapikule and then took taxis to Edirne. During the whole process, the group was afraid to ask for asylum in case they got beaten. They never returned the group’s personal belongings or provided food, water, or medical help.