They wanted to go to Europe badly, but Europe did not want them. They were returned to Turkey stripped of their clothes, documents and dignity. Some men from Pakistan, Morocco and Syria said they were violently returned by the Greek security forces.
We cannot verify the conditions in which the TRT video was taken, but human rights groups have taken clips similar to dozens of testimonies from refugees in recent years.
Abdulaziz, 20, has been walking barefoot for hours. We found him and his friends on the road in the border city of Edirne, Turkey. He said that the Greek police caught them shortly after crossing illegally into Greece.
Abdulaziz alleges that they were beaten, knocked and kicked with military shoes. The Greek authorities repeatedly deny using these violent methods of deterrence, or excessive force, while the government affirms Greece’s right to defend its borders against illegal crossing, adding that it does so on behalf of Europe. During our time at the border we heard many similar stories.
We met a group of Afghan refugees, who were tired but full of resolve. Hamid carried his child across the river and the fields. After walking for 5 hours, he said that the Greek security forces caught them, saying, “They beat us with sticks, and then they brought us back.” When asked, “Did they beat you?” They answered, “Yes, they beat my wife here.”
Hamid pointed out that “people do not choose to be refugees,” adding, “We want my children to grow up in a good place, and to lead a decent life.”
In their quest for this decent life, thousands found themselves victims of the political “chess game” between Turkey and the European Union. “The Turkish army told us to go to Greece, I tried it once but the Greek army asked us to return to Istanbul. They took all our money and our phones. We went back in lingerie only. What is this? We are all like a ball, and both countries are like a racket,” says Hamza, a Pakistani refugee. They are playing with us. ”
Nobody here knows how this game will end, but they say nothing will stop them from trying to reach Europe.