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When they saw us, the officers put the dog on us. So, we froze. One of the dogs bit me on my arm and on my leg.

Date & Time 2021-07-05
Location Malko Tarnovo to Şükrüpaşa
Reported by josoor
Coordinates 41.934088, 27.511866
Pushback from Bulgaria
Pushback to Turkey
Taken to a police station no
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 16 - 35
Group size 14
Countries of origin Syria
Treatment at police station or other place of detention
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 14
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, sexual assault, dog attacks, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved x14 officers wearing balaclavas & black uniforms: some had the Bulgarian flag on their arms while others were identified as German Frontex officers; x4 dogs; x4 black Jeeps

The respondent is a 20-year-old woman from Syria that was violently pushed back from Bulgaria to Turkey. She was traveling with 13 other people from Syria, including 12 men and one woman, their ages ranging between 16 and 35. 

On the morning of May 7th, the transit group crossed the Bulgarian–Turkish border northeast of Kırklareli. After walking for four or five kilometres, the respondent recalled sleeping in a forest until sunset. Once darkness fell, they decided to continue on their journey. 

They had reportedly walked another two kilometres before they were apprehended by 14 officers in balaclavas and black uniforms close to a paved road. The respondent recalled that the officers had four black Jeeps and four “big police dogs.” When asked to describe what happened next, the respondent said:

“When they saw us, the officers put the dog on us. So, we froze. One of the dogs bit me on my arm and on my leg.” 

Once they had caught the group, the respondent recounted, the officers started to beat the men, with four or five officers using brass knuckles. She described one officer having the word “police” written in English on his shirt, while some other officers had what resembled the Bulgarian flag on the sleeves of their shirts

When asked to describe what language the officers were speaking, the respondent said some officers were speaking in English to each other, while the officers not wearing the Bulgarian flag were speaking German. She further explained that she recognised the German language because she had studied it. The respondent also recalled seeing a logo on the jacket of the officers speaking German, later identified by the respondent as the Frontex logo.

Once the officers ceased to beat the men, they forced them to undress and began searching them. “They stripped one of the men fully naked in front of me and the other woman”, recounted the respondent. The officers reportedly took and kept all the belongings of the men and left them in their underwear.

The women, including the respondent, were also been frisked by male officers. The respondent explained that she didn’t have any money or phone with her but the officers took her shoes, her jacket, and the Muslim dress that she was wearing over her clothes. She never got them back. From the other woman, they took 100 dollars and her phone, recalled the respondent. 

“The officers took everything from us with violence.”

The officers reportedly took pictures of the group with their phones but never asked them to sign any papers, and didn’t take their fingerprints. When the group told the officers that they wanted to apply for asylum, the officers answered, “not in Bulgaria”, explained the respondent. 

“I asked for water but they didn’t give me any. That made them angry and they yelled at me.”

After beating and searching the group for what the respondent said felt like an hour, the officers loaded them into the trunks of the four Jeeps. Every car went in a different direction. The respondent was taken in a vehicle with the other woman and two men. “There was no seat to sit on, the trunk was so small that it could barely accommodate the four of us.” 

After an hour and a half of what the respondent described as fast and reckless driving on an unpaved road, they arrived at the border identified as near Malko Tarnovo. The officers reportedly beat the men with tree branches to force them to run toward Turkish territory. “The officers threw a branch on me, I was hit on my head,” recalled the respondent.

The respondent recalled the four of them being pushed back to Turkey through a small unofficial door that the officers pulled up from the bottom to make them crawl under.

“The officers even entered the Turkish territory to watch us. About 30 metres after the fence, there was a river which was 3 metres wide, with strong current. We had to cross. I had water up to my shoulder, I was drowning but one of the men of my group saved me.”

It was after sunset by the time the group made it to the other side of the river, near to Şükrüpaşa. They walked about three kilometres and spent the night sleeping in the forest. In the morning they walked another seven kilometres and ended up in the village of Dereköy. From here they took a taxi back to Edirne.