The respondent, a 32-year-old woman from Syria, walked from Edirne to the Evros river on the 18th July 2021. She said that she was walking in a group of 24 people who were all from Syria, including 6 women and children. According to her the age of the group ranged from 2-40 years old.
The respondent reported that the group crossed the border close to Hamzabeyli at around 1:30pm. They walked around 7km from the border with very little rest. They walked next to a forest along an unpaved road.
The respondent reported that at around 3pm, the group were apprehended by 2 officers wearing green shirt and trousers. They were in a green pick up truck. The second car contained 3 officers and later another car joined with 2 more officers surrounding the group. The respondent said that all officers wore green shirts and trousers.
The respondent reported that the officers started to kick everyone in the group all over their body at around 3pm. They took all the possessions of the group including water, food, bags and medicine. According to the respondent the officers had guns and pulled them out to threaten those in the group.
The respondent said that she was searched by a male officer. The officers touched her body and took off her headscarf and “he kept kicking me and scream at me and rip my dress and keep searching and touch my body in front of my kid.”
The respondent reported that the officers kept the group in the same place for 3 hours while searching and beating them. During this time they were not provided with any food or water. The group were exposed to the sun and begged the officers for water for the children but were not provided with any. The respondent states that the officers had also confiscated medicine belonging to the children and refused to return it.
The officers did not provide the group with any documents or take their fingerprints but took pictures of them with their phones. They asked the group in English ‘Where are you from Where are you going? Who is the smuggler who is the driver?’ The respondent told the officers that they were going to the camp and called another car to come.
The respondent said that the car was a green Toyota driven by 2 officers. One was wearing a sage green shirt and pants and the other a black jacket and green pants with a black balaclava. The officers wearing sage green had a Bulgarian flag on their arm. The one officer in black did not have the Bulgarian flag but a blue arm band. The officers reportedly spoke to the group in English and to each other in Bulgarian. The respondent states the officer in the black jacket was speaking a language that he believed sounded like Russian.
The respondent said that her child who was aged 10 looked at the officers and one officer kicked him. The child was also sick at this point as he was experiencing shortness of breath.
Whilst threatening the group with firearms, the officers loaded the group into the green Toyota. The respondent and other members of the group said that they wanted to go to the camp, but the officers laughed at them and continued to slap the children, shouting at them to move faster. The children were scared and confused and stared at the ground.
The respondent, with 9 other people including her child, 7 men and 1 other woman was loaded into the back of the Toyota, while the rest of the group was loaded into the other vehicles to be pushed back but the respondent did not see them again. Three officers also accompanied the truck with the respondent.
The respondent states that the back of the Toyota truck was 1m by 1m and it was very hot inside. It was difficult to breathe in the back of the truck, and the respondent’s child was becoming sick. The respondent was afraid of dying in the back of the truck and kept colliding with other passengers.
According to the respondent the officers drove the group for 30 minutes back to the fence on an unpaved road, driving recklessly. They then reached the fence next to the forest and unpaved road at around 7pm. The respondent reported that the officers pulled down a ‘garage door’ in the fence to push the group back to Turkey.
The respondent recalls that the two women in the group were slow to get out of the truck and move towards the door, so the officers beat them and another man with batons and kicked them.
The group walked for 4km into Turkey until they reached the village Vaysal and from there, left to Edirne.