The respondent, a 25 year-old man from Lebanon, experienced a pushback from Bulgaria, Malko Tarnowo to Turkey, Şükrüpaşa.
On the 4th of August, the respondent and 3 other men, who were all from Tunisia and between the ages of 23 and 26, took taxis from Edirne: first one to Kırklareli and then another to Dereköy. From there, they walked about 32 km towards the Turkish-Bulgarian border and crossed the barbed-wire border fence at 2 pm. They passed a dried-out river, crossed over mountains and went through a forest, which the respondent described as very hard.
Resting from time to time, the group continued walking for six days; they walked about 100 km until they were close to Burgas. On the last day, the group split up, because they had no water or food and they started to disagree on whether or not to continue. They walked in different directions—the other three people left together and the respondent went on by himself. After being pushed back, he met the others back in Turkey, where they had apparently also been pushed back.
The respondent himself was caught on Monday, the 9th of August, around 11 am, in a forest right outside a village close to both Rawadinowo and Burgas. He was apprehended by one female officer and one male officer, both dressed in sage green shirts and pants with Bulgarian flags on their arms and shoulders. The insignias were later confirmed to match the picture below:
The two officers were driving a green Nissan with Bulgarian text on it.
The female officer handcuffed the respondent with his hands in front, but the male officer took the handcuffs off and put them on again with his hands behind his back. The respondent reported that the male officer took the respondent 15 meters away from the female officer and started kicking and beating him for more than 10 minutes, while he was still in handcuffs. The officer asked in English where the other people were, but without making clear which people he meant. “I was begging him to stop beating and kicking me, but he didn’t, but he could understand my English”. The officers reportedly spoke Bulgarian with each other. The male officer took the respondent’s power bank and phone, but left his bag.
After about 30 minutes, they loaded him in the trunk of the car and drove for two kilometers. Another green Nissan with two additional officers came, and the respondent was given a phone to talk to a Syrian translator who could speak both Arabic and Bulgarian. She asked where the respondent was from and whether he spoke Arabic or Kurdish. He answered Arabic, to which she responded, “Do not worry, do not be afraid”. The respondent recalled, “I was crying and they kept hitting me while I talked to her.” The translator asked about the nationalities of the other people the respondent had been travelling with. He answered that they were Syrian to which she again responded by telling him not to be afraid. The respondent explained to her that the group split up because of a fight and told her that he wanted to apply for asylum. She again told him not to worry, however the officers continued to slap him. He talked to the translator for about seven minutes. After that, the officers spoke in Bulgarian to the translator, which the respondent couldn’t understand.
Throughout the whole conversation the respondent was alone, handcuffed and in the trunk which was smaller than one square meter. He could barely breathe and was sweating a lot because it was very hot. After ending the call to the translator, the second green Nissan left and the officers took off the respondent’s handcuffs and treated him better.
Then, the respondent was driven approximately 15 minutes, or approximately five kilometers, during which time he remained in the trunk but could see out. He said that they passed through a village and that they were first driving along a paved road where he could see the sea and people passing by, but that after entering a forest the road was unpaved. They stopped in the forest and waited for about 30 minutes. Then, the officers forced the respondent to unlock his phone and start checking it. The respondent was still in the trunk, but they opened the windows for him.
After another drive along a paved road that lasted around 45 minutes or 20 kilometers, the officers stopped under a bridge and handed the respondent over to two other officers in another green Nissan that was similar to the first one but older and more run down. The other two officers were also wearing sage green pants and shirts, with Bulgarian flags on their arms. They drove the respondent to the fence, in a fast and reckless manner, which took about one hour on both unpaved and paved roads.
At the pushback point, the respondent was handed over again to two other officers wearing sage green shirts and pants. They had a green Nissan car which had “border police” written on it in English. These officers opened a big door in the fence and then drove the respondent into Turkish territory.
The respondent reported that they took his bag and shoes and took pictures of him with their phones. The car drove around 500 meters into Turkish territory and then the officers took the respondent out of the car and started kicking him and beating him with a metal baton. They focused especially on hitting the respondent’s leg until he couldn’t stand anymore and then they hit him all over his body for about 10 minutes; the respondent thought he would pass out from the beating. One officer was kicking his head, he recalled, “I thought I was going to die”. After they took his shoes and other belongings, including 62 liras, the officers told him to not make any noise while leaving the place. The respondent walked for around three kilometers until he reached a road, where a Turkish Jandarma found him and tried to help him go to Istanbul. The Jandarma didn’t understand that the respondent wanted to go to Edirne instead of Istanbul, so he continued walking barefoot for another 30 kilometers or so until he reached a village called Dereköy. From there, he took a taxi to Edirne.