On Friday Oct 30 at 7:00 pm, 19 people (4 Palestinian, 15 Syrian) gathered in Marmaris, Turkey before being brought to a remote location on the coast (36.679707, 28.162435) where they then got into a dinghy. The group was comprised of 5 women, 9 men, 5 kids ( ages 2, 3, 11, 13, and 13).
After two hours at sea, the engine of the dinghy stopped working and would not re-start. After 30 minutes of being stranded without a working engine, the dinghy was approached by what the respondent describes as a Greek military ship at this location: 36.5323665,28.1806414)
“They [Greek military] threw ropes to our boat and started pulling us towards [them], and because of the high waves, our boat hit their ship and became broken, the water start to fill it. They asked us to climb to their ship. I was the first one, then [they] asked me to help the others, of course with shouting and pushing.”
The respondent describes being yelled at by officers aboard the military vessel, and then forced to go back into the damaged dinghy along with the others from the transit group.
“Then they used long sticks and pushed us away from their ship around 30 meter, and stand watching us. After 5 minutes, the Hellenic Coast Guard arrived, and pulled us the same way as the military ship did.”
The transit group was brought aboard the Coast Guard vessel. The respondent describes Coast Guard officers then shooting at the already damaged dinghy more than 20 times, until it was completely destroyed.
“The babies and kids were so scared of the shooting. Crying and screaming, even one of the girls almost passed [out]. We used Hand sanitizer to [wake] her. It was scary moments really.. I hope this ends.”
The Coast Guard officers shouted at and went through all of the bags of the transit group, stealing phones and wallets. The respondent and others from the transit group were then taken to the back of the boat, which drove then for an hour and a half before stopping again.
“They didn’t allow us to ask or speak or even look to the ship, they told us to look to the sea.”
Coast Guard officers prepared two “ orange small boats with flashing light on the top, blown with air.” This description matches the life rafts, which have been documented being used on many occasions of pushbacks in the Aegean. around 12:00pm, the transit group was split into two smaller groups, and forced onto the life rafts and into the sea (36.6478683,27.9600053).
“The sea was playing us, the wave washed us and start getting close to the coast, which coast we didn’t know, because we didn’t know where we [were]. After maybe 3 hours we reached to a rocky coast with sharp edges rocks, our boat smashed on it and damaged, the water start go inside it.”
Two vessels the respondent identifies as being Turkish Coast Guard approached the life rafts near the coast ((36.608080, 27.964280), and pulled them using ropes to port in Marmaris. They arrived in Marmaris at 6am, and stayed there until 10am. From there, the respondent describes being taken to the “Janderma” (Police), where they stayed until 7pm. From there, they were taken to an immigration office, and then to a bus station.
“I didn’t tell you about the scare and the moment we faced during the trip in the sea [in the life rafts] when the waves almost flipped us. All what I thought is to see my kids before I die. It was horrible.
I want the people to know that, we are not careless people, we don’t underestimate out life, we love to live, each one of us has a story behind him. It’s just, we are escaping (most of us) from inevitable death, risking whatever left to provide our kids a minimum level of safe living in secure place.”