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I was alone and I didn’t know where I was. My clothes were wet from the rain. So, I went back to where they pushed me back and asked them to show me the way, but the officer pulled out his gun and shot into the air

Date & Time 2021-03-24
Location Malko Tarnovo/Dereköy
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.9813251, 27.44951649
Pushback from Bulgaria
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 26 - 26
Group size 1
Countries of origin Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 7
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, threatening with guns, gunshots, theft of personal belongings
Police involved 5 officers wearing green camouflage with military boots - 2 had ‘border police’ written on their back, 3 were wearing a jacket on top of the uniform; 1 Jeep; 2 officers in balaclavas at the fence, one of them with a gun

The respondent, a 26 year old man from Morocco, was apprehended on his own by Bulgarian officers in a violent pushback from Bulgaria to Greece. He had walked across the border for 1km, from the Turkish village Hamzabeyli before he was caught by three officers at night. When the officers appeared, the respondent jumped a fence next to a highway to escape. He was chased by the officers into a forest where he was caught. The respondent explained that the officers followed searching for him with torches while he hid. “I was so tired” proclaimed the respondent. “I had a backpack on my back and from walking for so long, I couldn’t run faster than they did”.

The respondent explained that he could not see the uniforms very well because it was dark. But after they took him to the highway where there was a light in the road, and so he noticed that their clothes were green and they were wearing military boots. The respondent explained that two of the officers had “border police” written on the backs of their clothes and one was wearing a jacket. These officers spoke to the respondent in English.

The officers had been yelling when they were looking for the respondent, and they were very angry when they found him. The respondent explained the officers were about to leave, but one of the officers checked exactly where the respondent was hiding and he was found. This officer called the others and they came and started hitting him. The respondent explained that they kicked him in his “sensitive place” with their boots.

The officers were beating him randomly, “they did not care where they hit me” explained the respondent. “When I was trying to get out from where I was hiding, one of them [the officers] pressed on my leg, exactly on my leg”. 

“It wasn’t the first time I crossed into Bulgaria. Every single time, they always focus on the joints of your arms and legs”.

The respondent explained that the officers were angry so he could not speak to them. But later, “I started to talk to them. I lied and said that I have the rest of my family in Serbia and I just wanted to go to them. I wanted to go to a camp. I was also hungry because before I crossed, I spent like one day near the border and I ate the rest of my supplies” explained the respondent. In response, the officers ignored him. The respondent explained they kept telling him to “shut up” and one of the officers carried on hitting him until he stopped talking.

An officer asked the respondent “why do you want to go to Bulgaria?” He started yelling at him, saying “why do you lie to us!” and started hitting him. 

After 15 minutes of waiting on the highway, during which it was raining, a car came to pick the respondent up. The car was described as a Jeep. The respondent explained that he had been through it before, so he knew he was being taken to the border to be pushed back. The officers forced the respondent to lie down on this stomach and one of the officers wore gloves and conducted a body search. But, they didn’t take anything from the respondent and just forced him into the back of the Jeep. The respondent explained the officers were starting to get angry again and they hit him as he was pushed into the back of the car.

In this Jeep, there were two officers with the same uniforms as the previous officers. Inside the car, where the respondent was alone, there was a military-style bag with clothes.  

The journey in the jeep to the border fence took about an hour and a half. This border fence was with Turkey, but the respondent remarked that this location was different from another location of a previous pushback, which was next to Hamzabeyli where he had initially crossed the border this time. But the place of this pushback was “far” from Hamzabeyli. The closest location to this pushback point was identified as Dereköy

When the respondent arrived at the border fence between Bulgaria and Turkey, there was already another car, which had doors open, parked there with two more officers wearing balaclavas. They too were wearing green camouflage military uniforms. The respondent did not hear them talking so was not able to identify the language they were speaking.

Before the respondent was pushed back to Turkey, he was so thirsty that he asked the officers for water. He told one of them “sir, please give me some water”. An officer obliged and gave him a little bit of water, but then took it from him on his way through the ‘door’ in the fence. The officer hit him on his body and told him to “go fast” through the door. The officer also asked him if he spoke English and the respondent said yes.

The officer told the respondent to go on from this door into Turkey. “I was alone and I didn’t know where I was”, explained the respondent. “I couldn’t see any village nearby and I was afraid to go into the forest. I kept walking on an unpaved road. My clothes were wet from the rain. So, I went back to the door from where they pushed me back. I got close to the fence and asked the officers to show me the way, but the officer pulled out his gun and shot into the air so I ran back into the forest and hid”.

From here, the respondent arrived at the first village after 16km, which has been identified as Dereköy. He spent the night there in a mosque and then walked for 45km the following day to get to Edirne.