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It was like a game; we hide, they shoot us with the bullets

Date & Time 2021-12-25
Location Bulgaria
Reported by Anonymous Partner
Coordinates ,
Pushback from Bulgaria
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 17 - 26
Group size 5
Countries of origin Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 8
Violence used kicking, gunshots
Police involved 8-10 men described as wearing army uniforms

The respondent is a 26 year old Moroccan man who was pushed back in a group of 5 from Bulgaria to Turkey some time between the 24th and the 26th of December 2021 at roughly 2pm in the afternoon. The group was composed of 3 men and 2 minors; the respondent, two 25 year old men, and two 17 year old boys, all from Morocco. 

The respondent begins by describing the initial transit from Istanbul to Erdine, close to the Bulgarian-Turkish border, and spent the night outside in the snow, waiting to attempt to cross the border at 8am. At 8am, when they walked to the border, they saw cameras and a green army-style Land Rover patrolling the fence on the Bulgarian side of the border.

After seeing the car, they hid for some time close to the fence, where they met a group of 20 Syrians who were also attempting to cross the border. They agreed that the Syrian group would cross from one place, and that the respondent’s group would cross from another. 

As the group of Syrians began to cross the border through a hole that had been cut in the fence, 5 more green army-style Land Rovers appeared. The respondent stated that there were 8 to 10 officers inside the cars whom the respondent reported as wearing an army uniform, and began to shoot at the group with what were identified as plastic bullets.Reportendly, the officers were shooting real bullets into the air, and plastic bullets at the group. The group of Syrians began to scream and run, two of them were hit with the plastic bullets; one was hit in the arm and one in the back.

“So the Syrian group, they were the ones who did the cross first and when they were crossing the border, 5 cars came, we didn’t see where they came from, there were just 5 cars and they started shooting with plastic bullets and then everybody was scared and running.”

At this point, the respondent’s group attempted to cross the border through the same hole in the fence, and the officers began to shoot at them with plastic bullets. The group would then hide until they believed they could try to cross again, at which point they would be shot at again. This continued for roughly 4 hours until around 12pm. 

“It was like a game; we hide, they shoot us with the bullets, it was like this until 12”

After hiding for 1 or 2 hours, the respondents group then crossed the border at another location, at around 1pm or 2pm. After crossing the border, they were walking for about 10 minutes when another vehicle described as an army-style green Land Rover appeared. The two officers in the car were wearing what the respondent described as army uniforms and began to run towards them. The respondent’s group began to run and climb back over the fence to the Turkish side of the border. The fence was approximated at 5 meters high with barbed wire on the top, and reportedly, one of the group got stuck on the wire. The wire was inside the man’s body and when the two officers got to him, they pulled him off the fence. 

“He was bleeding and when the army got there they were taking him down and he was screaming.”

The officers in army uniforms then reportedly began to kick this man 2 or 3 times.

“He was bleeding so much and screaming during the time they were trying to pull him off, so in the end, they managed to do it, and when they got him down they were beating him with his blood, he was bleeding and at the same time they were beating him up”

The rest of the respondent’s group was watching from the Turkish side of the border. They watched the two officers kick the man and then push him back to Turkey through the hole in the fence. The respondent stated that after 20 minutes, a helicopter began to fly over them and patrol the area. 

When the man who was stuck on the fence reached their group, they put him in a taxi to Istanbul. The group then tried to cross the border at different locations, but failed to make it across.

“The fence was too sharp and he got very bad injuries, so we got a taxi and sent him back to Istanbul quickly. The rest of our group tried to see if we could cross again but we gave up in the evening and walked back to Istanbul.”