The respondent, a 22 year old man from Syria, recounts his third pushback from Valcha Polyna, Bulgaria, to Hamzabeyli, Turkey, on April 9th 2022. He was travelling alone.
Just before crossing the border, while he was still on Turkish soil, the respondent recalled noticing a drone flying overhead. It was a white drone, with four “arms”, that the respondent believed was “surveying the Turkish territory” for a total of “four minutes” before returning from the Turkish to the Bulgarian side. The respondent explained that after seeing this, he waited 15 minutes before crossing. He said the drone did not follow him, but that it just looked like it was surveying the area. The respondent crossed into Bulgaria at approximately 10:30 a.m. on the 9th of April.
He then reportedly walked for about two hours, crossing seven kilometers of distance. At about 12 in the afternoon that day, he was apprehended in the forest near to an unpaved road.
The respondent recalled was walking near an unpaved road and then he heard the sound of a car coming in his direction. He tried to run away from the road he was on and hide between the trees, but the men had parked the cars and began walking in his direction. The men reportedly unloaded a dog from the trunk of the jeep and brought it with them. The dog was identified by the respondent as a german shepherd. When he heard the dog barking he was afraid that they would let the dog loose on him, so instead the respondent rose up from where he was crouched and placed his hands in the air, explained the respondent.
He further described that he knew the officers would release the dog on him because he had heard of it happening to other transit groups, and also his cousin had been reportedly attacked two months prior.
He the described the uniforms of the three men: two were wearing forest green shirts with long sleeves and green trousers, and one was wearing a sacramento green jacket and trousers. The respondent further described that “border police” was written in white across the back of all the uniforms, as well as the Bulgarian flag sewed on their sleeve.
When asked to describe the two vehicles the men had arrived in the respondent identified one as a black car with “border police” written on it, and the other as a green jeep with something written in Bulgarian, but the respondent was not able to read what it said as he does not speak Bulgarian. Both of these vehicles were reportedly parked on the unpaved road where he was apprehended. The respondent did not recall seeing a number plate on the car. From the descriptions of the vehicles, the respondent identified the vehicles by the two images shown to him which are included below.
The respondent also reported that one of the uniformed men was carrying a firearm described a “russian old hand gun”. It was identified to be the same as pictured in Image 3, below.
According to the respondent, the uniformed men began shouting at him in Bulgarian, which he does not understand, and making sounds like “hoo haaa haa”, which he described as threatening.
One officer in the group was holding a firearm and it in his holster before he reportedly began to punched the respondent. The respondent tried to distance himself from the man to protect himself, and kept repeating “please please” to stop the man from beating him. According to the respondent, the uniformed man told the him to come toward him and grabbed his shirt to stop him from getting away. Another officer then reportedly came behind the respondent and kicked his leg and threw him to the ground. They all started kicking him and the respondent continued to say “please please”; he noted that they were “having fun for me begging for mercy”. He recalled being beaten all over his body for what felt like three minutes.
One they ceased beating him, they asked the respondent where he was from, “When I said I am Syrian, one of the men slapped me on the back of my head. I only asked for mercy, nothing more” he explained.
According to the respondent, the men in uniform searched him and took his shoes, his phone, and the 40 Bulgarian Lev he had and did not return any of it. They did not check his documents.
The respondent was then forced to walk to where the officers’ vehicles were parked and he was loaded into the trunk of the black discovery land rover which was driven by one of the uniformed men while sat in the front. The respondent described the trunk as being about 2 x 1 metre in size and having no seats. He was drive for about 15 minutes at a fast speed before arriving back at the border. The respondent was not able to describe his surrounding as they drove because the windows of the car were blacked out.
Once the vehicle stopped, the respondent was unloaded from the vehicle. He was reportedly surrounded by forest and the car was parked on an unpaved road that led up to the border fence. Both cars were to the border point, along with the same three men. They mostly spoke to the respondent in Bulgarian and in broken English, reported the respondent.
He was then slapped hard by the officers, and forced to sit on the ground looking down, recounted the respondent. Then he was forced to stand up again and was brought to a hole in the fence where the uniformed men kept saying to him, “you made this hole”, to which he respondent replied “no” and showed them his injured hand from climbing the fence. The respondent recalled that the then slapped him again and kicked him.
The respondent was then pushed back at this location; the men pulled up the hole cut in fence and pushed him through it. The respondent was dressed only in a sweater, trousers, and socks. It was approximately between two and three in the afternoon.
“a lot of beating every time I try to cross. We are human being the world might know this if there were not hard life in my country that I couldn’t live there. But they do not feel our pain”.
According to the respondent, after the pushback he rested for a bit on a tree far from the fence and then began walking. He walked along a road that took him to Hamzabeyli. From here, he recounted, a minibus came and he asked the driver for a lift to Edirne, explaining that he did not have any money, to which the driver agreed. The drive took about one hour.
Throughout the ordeal, the respondent wanted to ask for asylum but he explained that he was not given the chance.
“I asked them for mercy to not kick me more and they do kick me. Do you think I can talk about taking me to the camp or asylum? I will be dead before I even finish the word. You really don’t know how brutal they are”.