On November 5th, the respondent paid a smuggler 600 euros to bring him from Istanbul to Greece. In addition to him, the group included a couple from Iraq and five men from Syria and Morocco; the age range of the group was between 24 and 34 years old. They drove around four hours until they arrived at the Evros/Meriç River at around 1 pm. After around an hour, they paddled across the river in a plastic boat that the smuggler had brought. He accompanied the group to the other side and then returned to Turkey.
The group began to walk but the respondent was quickly left behind. He recounted, “I was walking slowly and I was a bit fat. They didn’t want anyone that would slow them down so they started making excuses by telling me that they would go to Bulgaria and we weren’t taking the same road…They left me there alone and walked faster than me and I lost them.”
The respondent continued walking alone for around 40 minutes until he arrived at a small town, Mandra, where he looked for a bus station so he could buy a ticket to go to Thessaloniki. He recalled, “I checked the map but I didn’t find one, only bus stops. Then I wanted to go into town, thinking I might find someone who could help me to get to a bus station, but it was weird how people looked at me and I was afraid to ask for help. So I continued walking and tried to get out of town…I was walking on the side of the road trying to get out of town when a police car stopped next to me. Two officers got out of the cars and asked me for papers and of course I didn’t have any.”
The car was white and blue with “police” written on it in English and red and blue lights on the top. The respondent later recognized the car from the following picture.
The officers were wearing olive green shirts and pants with black shoes and carrying guns. The respondent identified the uniforms from the picture below.
They told the respondent to sit down and told people passing by to keep walking. The respondent recalled, “One officer kept telling me, ‘No problem. Camp, camp.’ And he asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ and I said ‘Algeria’ and he kept telling me ‘No problem, no problem.’”
They remained there for around 15 minutes, until a white van arrived, which the respondent recognized from the following picture.
Two officers arrived in the van, one wearing a black jacket and one in a green jacket but both wearing jeans and white sneakers. The respondent recounted, “When they were loading me [in the van]—I’m fat—they kept laughing at me and one of them slapped me on the back of the head and they locked the door.” They spoke English to him but what he thought was Greek to each other.
They drove him for 20 minutes; he said, “I could feel that they were driving fast and they did it on purpose to keep shaking me in the back. They went over every pothole on the road.” He could tell the road was paved at first but then changed to a dirt road.
When they arrived at the detention site, at what the respondent estimated was around 6 or 7 pm, he couldn’t see much. He recalled:
“They parked the car and I found myself in front of the hallway of the detention site. Then they took me to a big room and told me to undress and before I undressed they took my phone and my bag. Then they told me to undress. While I was taking off my clothes, one of the officers in the room started punching me, telling me to hurry up, but I couldn’t hurry because of my body, so he kept hitting me with the [plastic] baton to make me go faster…I was totally naked. Even the officers were laughing at me and one of them—when I was naked—told me to turn and look at the wall and then he kicked my back.”
Then they threw his shorts and shirt at him and put him in a cell.
The respondent said there were four officers wearing olive green jackets and pants, with “police” written in yellow on the jackets. He stated they were wearing the same uniforms as the previous officers but with jackets.
The cell they took him to was around six by seven meters and very dirty. It had four bunk beds without mattresses, a cement floor, and a toilet and smelled very bad. He estimated that there were already around 80 people in the cell, including around five women and around nine minors, both children as young as three years old and unaccompanied adolescents. The oldest person was a man around 50 years old and the detainees included people from Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Syria. The respondent remained in the cell for around four hours, during which time six more people were brought to the cell.
Then, an officer wearing the same olive green uniform but with a jacket, a black bulletproof vest, and a balaclava came and told the people to go outside, where they found around 19 more officers. These officers were wearing different uniforms, but the majority—around 12—of them were wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas. When asked if there was anything to show that they were officers, the respondent replied, “If you consider holding a branch and beating people with it as a sign of being an officer then they were the perfect officers because they kept beating everyone.”
Five officers were wearing olive green jackets and pants with “police” written on their chests. The respondent recognized the uniform from the following picture.
The other two officers were wearing dark blue uniforms with “police” written on their chests and insignia on their sleeves. The respondent identified the uniforms from the picture below.
Then the group was loaded into three white vans, similar to the one that had brought the respondent to the detention site. In his van, he estimated that there were around 40 people, including children. He said they could barely breathe and recalled, “A man of my size with 39 others—I felt so embarrassed because I bothered the people with my size.” They were driven around 30 minutes in a fast and reckless manner along an unpaved road.
At what the respondent estimated was around midnight, they arrived at the Evros/Meriç River, where they found the rest of the people from the detention site. There were also around 100 additional people already there, including more women and children, as well as an old green military truck, which the respondent recognized from the following picture.
There were around 15 officers at the pushback site. Eight of them were wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas, three were wearing camouflage uniforms, and four were wearing olive green jackets and pants. One of the officers wearing camouflage was using night vision goggles and watching the Turkish side and the other two were carrying guns and patrolling the area.
The group was taken out of the van and put in a line and searched, one by one, before being loaded into a boat. The women were searched by male officers and the respondent said all of the officers were carrying branches.
There were two plastic grey boats that were around two by two meters long. The officers loaded the people into the boats in groups of ten, with two officers wearing civilian clothes and balaclavas paddling each boat. The respondent said they stopped the boat before the shore and told them to jump out and go back to Turkey. He recounted, “As I was a little big, when they loaded me the officer in the boat kept slapping me and punching me on my back and swearing at me in Arabic.” In a what the respondent identified as a Syrian accent, the officer told him, “Fuck your mother big cow make space or I will let you drown in the river.”
Once in Turkey, the respondent walked until he arrived at a village called Nasuhbey, where he saw a sign that said he was 80 kilometers from Edirne. When asked if he had asked for asylum at any point in Greece, he replied:
“I was really too scared to talk. I only answered what they asked me. They made me feel that they could kill me and nobody would know what happened so I didn’t talk much.”