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Forget about Human Rights in Bulgaria

Date & Time 2022-07-04
Location near Sislioba (TR)
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.96719, 27.91381
Pushback from Bulgaria
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 22 - 33
Group size 4
Countries of origin Morocco, Algeria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 6
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, gunshots, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 2 uniformed men in sacramento pants and a forest green long sleeve shirt with a Bulgarian flag sewed on their arm; 4 men in sacramento green jackets and pants.

This testimony recounts a violent pushback from Bulgaria to Turkey. The respondent, a 27-year-old man from Algeria, was part of the pushback group consisting of one woman and two men aged between 27 and 33. This was his 7th time being pushed- two being from Greece to Turkey and five from Bulgaria to Turkey.

On the 6th of April, the respondent, together with transit group, crossed the Bulgarian-Turkish border near the Turkish town of Şükrüpaşa. After walking for nine hours, at seven a.m. (7/4/2022) they decided to stop to rest. He recalled being near the Bulgarain town, Balgari. As the group sat on a hill near an unpaved road close to, they were approached by a group of six men in uniform.

The respondent described how two of them were wearing sacramento green pants, a forest green long sleeve shirt with “border police” written on the back, and a Bulgarian flag on their sleeves. The other four men were reportedly wearing sacramento green jackets and pants.

The respondent identified the uniforms of the two men in image 1,

Image 1 Backs of Bulgarian Border Police uniforms

The respondent described that when the men saw them, they pointed their guns at them and one fired one shot directed in the group’s direction. The respondent identified the handgun as being similar to image 2.

Image 3 Beretta M9

According to the respondent, the men started shouting in Bulgarian and “immediately started kicking us” [us refers to the whole group] and constantly repeating the word “zadnik” [translates into asshole]. The respondent recalled that the woman started crying and one officer slapped her in the head while the other five men continued beating the rest of the group. “We asked for mercy but they kept kicking us”. The beating continued for what felt like 20 minutes to the respondent.

The respondent reported that they were forced to undress and give up their phones; the phones were put in one plastic bag and the clothes in another big black bag. The group was then forcibly searched including the woman, who was frisked by a male officer. The search lasted approximately forty minutes.

Afterwards, the men in uniform led the group along the unpaved road to where they had parked their cars. The respondent recalled the two cars resembling a land rover Discovery and had “police” written on them white in white. The respondent identified the car as being similar to the one in image 3. The group was then loaded into the trunk of a cars which was reportedly around one by one or one by two-meter with the windows blacked out.

“They put me and my friend in one car and the woman and the other person in the other car. There were three men in every car.”

Image 4 Bulgarian Border Police – Discovery Landrovers 

The group was then driven for approximately an hour until they reached the border, and the respondent recalled how the the car was sometimes driving fast and sometimes driven slow. He said that around five minutes before arriving at the location of the pushback, the car began driving uphill. In response to questions about the drive to the pushback point, the respondent stated:  “I get used to all the brutality we face every time”.

It was around nine a.m. when the car pulled up the border. He described his surroundings as “yard” between the border fence and the hill, with mountains on both sides of the border. On the Bulgarian side of the border, there was reportedly a small forest and a small hill about 200 meters from the fence with an unpaved road on it.

The group exited the cars were ordered to sit down. The respondent described, “we had to raise our legs in the air and hit us on our legs. Then we were asked to stand up and [the men in green uniforms] started kicking us with their knees in our stomach and punching us”. [..] “We were like a punching bag, they kicked and punched us”.  The woman in the group was included in the beating that reportedly lasted for about five minutes. 

After, the group was reportedly brought to a door in the fence. The respondent  described the door as a “flipped door” that had to be opened from the top through which a small hole at the bottom of the fence appeared. The respondent and the rest of the group were forced to crawl through this hole. They were pushed back to Turkish territory at around 9.20 a.m.

Their confiscated belongings were not returned to the group, and through out the entire apprehension, they were never offered food or water, explained the respondent.

When asked if the intention to claim asylum was expressed, the respondent said “nobody can ask them [men in green uniform] anything. I tried to talk to them but they separated me from the group and started beating me”. “[..] Forget about human rights in Bulgaria”.

According to the respondent, when they arrived in Turkey the group began to walk southwards, back to Edirne, barefoot; they crossed a small river and walked through farmlands until they started following an unpaved road that eventually led them to the village of Sislioba. In this village, a man reportedly gave them a ride to another village from where they got a minibus to Kırklareli with some money the man that had given them the lift offered them. From Kırklareli, they walked for seven hours and eventually arrive in Edirne.