The respondent, a 24 years old Tunisian man, left Edirne city with his friend, a 20 years old Tunisian man on the 27th of April. The respondent recalls seeing solar panels next to the border fence and a camera on the fences. After the fences, the two men crossed “a small river” (the Evros/Meriç river).
Once in Bulgaria, they walked one kilometer before taking a rest. “For one hour, we watched the surroundings to make sure that it was safe to go”. Then the two men kept walking for about 12 hours.
“We went through high mountains. When I was sleeping my friend saw a big yellow and black snake coming on me”, said the respondent. We ran away, because it was dangerous. Also, we could hear wolves”.
After having walked for one day and a half, the two men ran out of water and were really thirsty. So, they reached the “highway” and got closer to some villages to find water. They crossed two villages in which they couldn’t find any water, so they kept walking until they reached a third village where they went to a house to ask for help. It was around 2 or 3 PM. The respondent said that:
“There was a man in the house to whom we said that we are thirsty and that we are afraid to be apprehended by the police. He said to not worry, that he won’t call the police and gave us a bottle of water. He asked us where we are from and where we wanted to go. We told him that we want to go to Harmanlı. He said that he will call his brother but he actually called the police”.
After not even one minute, a man wearing sage green pants and a black shirt with the Bulgarian flag on it came to the house where the respondent and his friends asked for water. Based on the uniform, the respondent identified the man as a Bulgarian police officer. The officer took the respondent and his friend to his car and brought them to a building that was “really close to the house we have been in and the building looked like it was abandoned”. The respondent said that there was no sign showing that it was an official police station or detention site.
The officer took the two men inside the building which had two floors. The respondent only saw the ground-floor where there was an entrance hall, two rooms and an office. When they arrived, there was nobody else in the building. The respondent asked for asylum but the Bulgarian officer denied his request.
“I was showing a heart with my hand, saying “love Bulgaria”, to make him understand that I love Bulgaria and that I want to stay In Bulgaria”, recounted the respondent. “I said that I don’t want to go back to Tunis. I was trying to tell him in English. He was laughing at me, he didn’t care”.
The officer locked the two men in one of the rooms, which was 3m by 2m. The respondent described the room as cold, dirty and stinky. “It was not a proper cell. It was full of bottles of water and there was no place to sit on. There was a hole in the ground that was used as a toilet. It was really stinky”, he said.
The respondent related that they heard the officer calling other officers.
“We knew that he was talking about us on the phone because he was saying “Tunis, Tunis, Tunis”. Then he asked us in English if we were alone or if they were other people with us. He kept asking if we had phones and money. My friend said that he had a phone but he didn’t say that he had money, he was hiding it. This officer didn’t search us”.
The respondent and his friend were detained for one hour. During this time, they were denied food, and water and the officer didn’t provide translators.
Then two other officers came inside the building. One of them was a “big guy” wearing a green shirt with the Bulgarian flag on his arm and black trousers. The other one wore a black shirt, and green trousers. On the bag of this latter officer, it was written “border police” in English.
One officer went upstairs and the two other ones frisked the respondent and his friend.
“They took our clothes off, piece by piece. We were naked, they asked us to kneel and crawl. They found the money on my friend, so they beat him with a stick. They gave us back our shirt, shoes and pants but they kept all the rest of my belongings: phones, money, supplies, even one of my shirts and the new shoes we had in our bags.”
The two same officers loaded them in the trunk of a green 4-wheel drive. The respondent and his friend had to lie to fit in. “While driving the officers were watching us in the mirror and laughing at us”. They were driven for about 1 hour and 30 minutes on a paved road at the beginning then on unpaved roads. “They drove so fast. I was sick in my heart.”
The car ended up somewhere in the forest by the Bulgarian – Turkish border, which was later identified as a place close to Matochina. “There was something which looked like a watchtower and a barbed fence, the same kind of the one we crossed to enter in Bulgaria but much higher”, explained the respondent.
The officers took the two men out of the car. There they have been met by three other officers wearing green pants and black shirts with written on it “border police”. “As soon as we put one foot out of the trunk, they started beating us with black batons and plastic sticks. Even when we fell, they kept on kicking us. They also punched us”, said the respondent.
They were beaten for 20 minutes and then pushed back to a location close to Suakacağı, through a hole in the fence.
“The officers pull up the fence to make us cross, while beating us and laughing at us. They told us to hurry, they even came with us under the fence, they followed us in the Turkish territory for about ten meters”.
Once the respondent and his friend were on the Turkish side, it was around 5 PM and they walked about 3 hours in forest and field lands before reaching a road where they got a ride in a truck. It took them 30 minutes to reach Avariz. It was a bit after sunset. From there, they walked for another 6 kilometres on an unpaved road before getting another ride to a location close to Edirne. They took a taxi and arrived in the city centre around 9 PM.