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We wished for rain so that we could at least drink something. We were so thirsty

Date & Time 2021-07-18
Location Elhovo/Küçünlü
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.936667, 26.76983
Pushback from Bulgaria
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 3 - 35
Group size 8
Countries of origin Syria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 10
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, insulting, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving, religious violence, denial of access to medical assistance, humiliation, forced to pay a fee, denial of food/water
Police involved 1 Green Toyota; 1 green Nissan Pickup; 9 officers, speaking Bulgarian with each other, english and a bit of turkish to the people, dressed in sage green shirts and pants with “Border police” written on their back and a Bulgarian flag as an arm patch; 1 officer, speaking russian, was confirmed by the respondent as operating for FRONTEX as he was wearing a black jacket, green pants and the blue FRONTEX-armband; 2 officers wearing green shirts and pants with “police” written on their back.

The respondent is a 17-year-old from Syria who was walking with his 21 year-old brother when they crossed the border into Bulgaria. They both had experienced 4 pushbacks already, the most recent one from Bulgaria to Turkey. 

The respondent said that the two started walking on the 17th of July from Edirne for about 4-5 km to get closer to the border and cross to Bulgaria by crossing the fence. With them 24 Syrian (among them 5 women), aged between 14 – 40, were walking until they reached a point at the fence close to Hamzabeyli.

Around 2.30 pm they entered Bulgaria and walked for about 4 km to the destination of Sofia. The respondent recounted they were surrounded and caught at around 4.30 pm 300m outside of “Golyam Dervent” (Bulgaria) by 6 officers. The respondent reported that the officers were all dressed in sage green shirts and pants. The shirts had “Border police” written on their back and a Bulgarian flag as an arm patch. These officers were not wearing balaclavas.

The respondent states that the officers called for more officers and five minutes later, 2 other officers in a green Nissan pickup truck appeared, dressed as well in sage green uniforms. The officers searched everybody in the group and took their belongings like phones, 200 dollar per person, bags and shoes plus the water. The women were searched by male officers, forced to take their headscarf off. The respondent reported that the officers kept saying towards them “No Islam, No Headscarf” and checked every body part. The respondent reported that everyone in the group was so thirsty that they wished for rain so that they could at least drink something. According to the respondent the officers didn’t care at all.

The respondent reported that the officers started beating people randomly and everywhere with a plastic baton. The women were also reportedly kicked but the children were protected by the respondent and other people of the group. One of the babies was sick, the mother asked for necessary medicine but it was reportedly denied.

For about 5 hours the group was reportedly kept waiting in the blazing sun by the officers, without being provided food or water because the water had been taken before by the officers. No fingerprint was taken or paper given to sign, but the officers took pictures of every person with their phones. The respondent said that he was asked by the officers where he is from, where he is going and who the smuggler and driver were. He answered that they are going to the camp. The respondent reported that the officer pulled firearms to threaten them.

The respondent reported that one officer was wearing a black jacket, green pants and according to the respondent, the blue FRONTEX-armband. The respondent could hear him speaking Russian, the other officers were speaking Bulgarian with each other and used English and some Turkish for talking to the group.

Once they loaded them in the car, the officers started surrounding and reportedly humiliating the people. The respondent kept saying that they wanted to go to the camp to which the officers reacted heartlessly as the respondent described, with laughter and insults by showing the middle finger. 

The respondent states that another car with 2 officers was called, both wearing green shirts and pants with “police” written on their back. These officers divided the 24 people into three groups and loaded them in the trunk of a Green Toyota. The respondent was part of the first group, the others were waiting at the site. The trunk was 1 metre by 1 metre in size. The respondent recalls that it was too hot so it was impossible to breathe properly.

The respondent said that after approximately 40 minutes of fast and reckless driving on unpaved road (the group reportedly kept colliding into each other), the respondent and the others were taken to the push-back point to a road in the forest next to the fence.

On site there were no other officers, just the two who were driving the car. The respondent described the pushback point as a normal “garage – door” [in the border fence], which the officers just opened and pushed them back to Turkey. At that point, the group was reduced to 8 people, including the respondent. The group consisted of one woman, five men and one 3-year-old child, the age range was therefore between 3 and 35 years.

By now it was the 18th of July, 2021, around 6 pm when the group was urged to just leave Bulgaria through the door. The respondent reported that one Bulgarian officer spoke English and told him “Go to Germany and try again”.

The group had to walk barefoot for about 2 km until reaching Küçünlü, and then went on to reach Edirne city.