A group of African refugees were tortured at the Turkish-Greek border by a Turkish-speaking gang, according to video footage shared by an İstanbul-based refugee solidarity group on their Twitter account on October 10.
In the video shared by Tarlabaşı Dayanışma Grubu (Tarlabaşı Solidarity Group), a group of gang members is seen beating and threatening refugees. In the footage the gang members refer to themselves as the “mafia” and demand money from the refugees. The solidarity group claimed the gang holds the refugees hostage until they pay $4,000 and that the video was shot in the border city Edirne.
Yunanistan’a geçmek için Edirne’ye giden Afrikalı göçmenler sınırdaki çeteler tarafından rehin alınıyor. Bize ulaşan bilgilere göre 5 rehine 4000$ fidye karşılığında serbest bırakıldı. Çetenin elinde 10’dan fazla rehine buluyor.@TC_icisleri @TC_istanbul @suleymansoylu @EmniyetGM pic.twitter.com/rkYnrRU0RH
— Tarlabaşı Dayanışma (@TarlabasiDayani) October 10, 2020
Muhammed Sıddık Yaşar from the Tarlabaşı Solidarity Group, who spoke to the Sendika64 news website, said an African activist sent them the video and that they decided to investigate. According to Yaşar, 10 refugees are still being held hostage but their whereabouts are unknown. “The refugees who were set free do not want to talk about it. They got the money from their families, or somebody lent it to them.”
Yaşar said the refugees who paid the money were released somewhere between Turkey and Greece. When they managed to cross the border and reached a camp, they were able to contact their families. “They called their families as soon as they got an Internet connection and told them they had been tortured,” he said.
The Tarlabaşı Solidarity Group alerted the authorities, and accomplices of the gang in İstanbul were detained on October 12. The gang remains at large in Edirne.
Tensions at the Turkish-Greek border escalated after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in February threatened Europe with sending refugees living in Turkey to Europe. Shortly afterward he declared that the borders were open. In what appeared to be a government-organized campaign, thousands of migrants headed to the Greek border, leading to scenes of chaos. Greece shut its frontier and suspended asylum applications for a month.
Amnesty International (AI) has reported an increase in violence at the border. Research by AI published on April 3 said migrants and refugees traveling from Turkey to Greece have been tortured, robbed and even killed. According to their study both Turkish and Greek border guards were complicit in these crimes. In some cases, when the migrants managed to cross the border, they were pushed back to Turkey.