On February 27 and after at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Ankara was no longer abiding by a 2016 agreement to stop the influx of refugees into the EU. He made good on his long-standing threat he would let refugees pour into the continent.
Turkey opened its borders, or rather its flood gates, with Greece and there came a rush of thousands, who then tried to make it to Europe. Raid, his wife Lilav and their seven-month-old baby, a family from Syria’s Afrin, were among the thousands.
Greece had stood its ground and had turned the refugees away even deploying tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons at its border. Raid and a few others however paid smugglers who took them across the Evros River, which runs along much of the Turkish-Greek border.
After five days of travelling, Raid and his family were finally in Greece. There in the countryside near Pythio, Evros, the Syrian family lit a fire and waited. Sooner or later, the Greek police would find them, they knew. What they did not know was how their hard journey was far from over.
Raid recounted the events that led them to the living room of a humble house back in Turkey. He recalls that Greek police came and confiscated their belongings, including “the milk and diapers for the baby,” as well as his and his child’s passports, before placing them in a van with “15 to 20 people.” His wife managed to keep hold of her passport since it was in her pocket rather than in a backpack with the other two passports.
Hours later, the family was forced to swim back towards Turkey says Raid. “They let people across with nothing, across the water, whoever was afraid because they couldn’t swim, they beat them to force them, they treated us like a virus or like a terrorist, not like we are human beings who want to live, who want a better life.”
Ruptly cannot independently verify the claims of the family.
The family is now staying in Antalya, where Raid is desperately looking for a job ahead of making a renewed attempt to get to Europe. His son is receiving treatment via an oxygen mask after he fell sick during the crossing back into Turkey.
Reached by Ruptly, a spokesperson for the Hellenic Police, deputy police director Theodoros Chronopoulos, stated that Greece “does not proceed with illegal pushbacks of refugees and migrants. From the point of view of the Hellenic Police, fundamental human rights are protected and promoted in every area of police actions as they arise from international, European and national law.”