Refugee claims girl’s ‘death’ was set up

Trafficker said to have suggested the allegedly fake story that became a media sensation

Refugee claims girl’s ‘death’ was set up

One of the 38 refugees stranded on an islet along the Greek-Turkish border last summer has come forward to claim that the alleged death of a 5-year-old Syrian girl on the islet was meticulously stage-managed.

The man, a Syrian national, has told Kathimerini that the young girl, who is alive, was laid down and make-up was applied to her face to make her look like she had died. Her hair was then cut to alter her appearance.

The suggestion to stage-manage the death was made by a Turkish refugee trafficker and carried out by a woman, Baidaa S., who suddenly appeared with the group and posted photos, videos and messages. After the refugees were finally admitted on Greek soil and sent to a camp, Baidaa disappeared, he said. She subsequently turned up in Germany, where her husband has lived since 2015. Her social media posts indicate that she shuttled between Germany and Turkey, and her life, as presented in them, is far from that of a stateless refugee.

The story, which erupted in the media last August, depicted Greece’s alleged callousness toward refugees. German magazine Der Spiegel, which had covered the story over three reports and a podcast last summer, published a lengthy retraction in late December, saying there were mistakes made in its reporting but stopping short of admitting the death did not happen.

Kathimerini understands the interviewed man has given a lengthy deposition to Greek police. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he came forward because he feared repercussions and insisted his revelations were not suggested by Greek authorities.

The Syrian refugee gives a detailed description of how the 38 came together at the border and how Turkish security forces egged them on. He recounts that, in a first attempt to enter Greece, masked mean beat up the refugees and pushed them back.

Asked why the family of the young girl had acquiesced in the setup, he said the trafficker told them they had paid less than others to cross the Evros River, which forms most of the Greek-Turkish border, implying they were indebted to him.

Baidaa was not the only one among the group who left the refugee camp shortly after arrival and turned up in Germany. But in her case, there are several indications that she already possessed the necessary travel documents.

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