CNN has obtained a video showing men in their underpants arriving back on Turkish soil, allegedly sent back through Evros River, with no clothes by Greek security forces. The river, known as Meriç in Turkey, forms the natural border between both countries.
The video was captured by Turkish state broadcaster TRT. CNN cannot independently verify this specific video or circumstances surrounding how it was shot. But human rights groups like Amnesty International have documented dozens of similar refugee testimonies in recent years — which Greek authorities have repeatedly denied.
CNN has spoken to several men from Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco and Pakistan who said they experienced this violent and degrading treatment by the Greek security forces in recent days.
Abdel Aziz, a 20-year-old tailor from Aleppo province in Syria, told CNN he was beaten up, stripped down to his underwear and had his belongings taken before he was sent back.
“We were caught by military or police, they were carrying weapons … they took all our clothes, we were left in our underwear, they started beating us up, some people were beaten so hard they couldn’t walk anymore,” Aziz told CNN, as he was walking barefoot in the city of Edirne near the border. “They burned the IDs and clothes, they kept the phones and money,” he added.
Hameed, a 23-year old Afghan man holding his 14-month-old son in a baby carrier, said he and his family crossed to Greece the night before, but were pushed back with a big group of other people.
He told CNN the group crossed the border river and walked for five hours before the Greek security forces stopped them, took their belongings and deported them back to Turkey.
“They beat us with some, like, sticks and then they deport us,” he told CNN. He said both he and his wife were hit.
‘Responding to the provocations’
The government denies using excessive force against migrants. Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN’s Richard Quest on Friday that “Europe is not going to be blackmailed by Turkey.”
Greece had “every right to protect our borders,” he said, adding “we have not used any sort of excessive force.”
“We’re always reacting, we are never initiating, in terms of responding to the provocations across the border.”
Greece and Turkey have been at odds over immigration policy after thousands of migrants gathered at the border between the two countries earlier this week.
Turkey hosts 4.1 million refugees, many of whom are Syrian, and under a 2016 agreement with the European Union, it agreed to halt the flow of migrants into Europe in exchange for economic incentives and support.
But the uptick of violence in northern Syria has seen around 1 million displaced people amass south of Turkey’s border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the EU last weekend of not keeping its side of the agreement last weekend, and began allowing refugees to cross its border toward Europe, saying it had “reached its capacity” to hold them.
Greece has refused to open its side of the border and responded to the influx of migrants with force. At Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, eyewitnesses told CNN on Wednesday that Greek security forces had fired live ammunition.
Turkey accused Greek border guards of opening fire on refugees and migrants gathered at its border on Wednesday, killing one and injuring five others. The Greek government has denied using live ammunition.