The respondent, a 45-year-old woman from Syria, was pushed back from Bulgaria, Kraynovo to Turkey, Vaysal on the 13th of April 2022, along with her 10-year-old son and her husbad. They were part of a transit group consisting of 20 people, between 10-50 years old, all from Syria. It is her 8th pushback from Bulgaria. Each time she was travelling with her 10-year-old son and husband.
On the 11th of April at about 2 p.m., the respondent crossed the border into Bulgarian territory. Once in Bulgaria, the group walked for two days straight through forests, valleys and rivers. According to the respondent, on the 13th of April, the transit group heard the sound of cars driving in the area so the entire group lay down and the ground and hid from view. Eight men wearing sacramento green uniforms with “border police” written in English on their backs, and armed with plastic batons and firearms in their holsters came into view, and the respondent explained that she believed they were using a german Shepard to try locate the group. uniformed men used dogs to find them. The transit group, including the respondent, was then discovered by the men in uniform, and were apprehended.
According to the respondent, the men in uniform were speaking to the group in Bulgarian and Turkish, which the group did not understand. They were then ordered to get down on their knees and put their hands behind their backs while the uniformed men forcefully searched each person and took the phones and money belonging to the members of the transit group. The respondent recalled how one of the officers kept saying, “Bulgaria no, money, phone” in Turkish. The uniformed men also reportedly beat members of the group while searching them, and took pictures of the respondent’s back while frisking her.
The respondent reported that the officers searched her all over her body, “even my underwear and under my head scarf”, to try find money. “We couldn’t talk, we didn’t understand them, we couldn’t even look at them”. The men in uniform reportedly took her backpack, €150, her jacket, her medicine, and all her documents (including her medical analysis which she needed to claim asylum in Bulgaria). She recounted that at no point were any of her belongings returned to her.
“We couldn’t talk. You can’t talk if they don’t ask you to talk. They even try to not let you look at them. Otherwise they will beat you. They beat the other men, they searched women, they don’t care and they are not afraid of any law on this earth”.
In total, the transit group reportedly detained at the site of apprehension for about one hour.
After being searched, the uniformed men made the group walk to where the vehicles that the officers reportedly arrived in were parked. The respondent described seeing three cars in total; one black jeep with “border police” written on it and two green trucks with the Greek insignia on it. The transit group was subsequently divided and loaded into the trunks of the green trucks, which the respondent described as small, “It was hard to breathe properly because we were so crowded and I am sick and my son barely could breathe. He is a kid”.
According to the respondent, the driving was relatively slow paced and lasted for approximately 40 minutes. The land rover was did not accompany the other two vehicles to the pushback location. They then reportedly pulled up next to a big forest on an unpaved road along the border fence with a 2 by 1 meter pull-up door in it, and unloaded the groups from the vehicle; the same seven uniformed men who had apprehended the group were present.
The uniformed men then told the men of the transit group to remove their shoes, recalled the respondent. Then they proceeded to search everyone, including the respondent, again, “They saw my kid checking his pocket and they thought he was hiding something”. At that point, she was wearing only her sweater, pants and shoes; the uniformed men didn’t take her or her son’s shoes.
“I only experienced pushing and was screamed at while the man was checking my underwear. I was afraid that if I talked or had any reaction they would hurt my son. The man scared me with the baton which he put on my head while he was talking and I didn’t understand what he was saying. He looked at his friend and laughed.”
After about 20 minutes of being searched, the uniformed men reportedly opened the door in the border fence and forced the group to crawl through it back onto Turkish soil.
After the push back, the transit group reportedly walked through mountains and hills until they arrived at a village called “Vaysal”, approximately six kilometers away from the pushback point. The respondent described how they found a public faucet to drink from and then entered a mosque to ask for help. At this point the family of three had separated from the rest of the initial transit group. At the mosque, recalled the respondent, they met an imam who gave them some food and asked a man to drive the family to the nearest place possible to Edirne.
The man drove for almost one hour. Then the respondent, her husband and her son walked for three hours to reach Edirne.
“I am sick. I only wanted to go where they can help me with my operations. They took everything and they keep pushing me back every time. It’s the third time this month. They took everything from me. Where is the law, where is the right? Or we are nothing for them? They don’t care about us if we die or not, we are not considered as humans”.