The respondent is 17 years old and from Morocco. He was part of a transit group that consisted of six other men from Morocco. According to the respondent, he was the youngest member of the group while the oldest was 40 years old. One night in November 2022 the transit group was reportedly apprehended in Bulgaria shortly after crossing the border from Turkey. The transit group was reportedly apprehended by Bulgarian army officers who beat them, stole their personal belongings and pushed them back to Turkey during the same night.
The respondent reported that the transit group was approached by six officers near the Turkish-Bulgarian border. The respondent did not want to share the exact location. He described the officers as Bulgarian army officers wearing green and yellow camouflage uniforms. The respondent noted that the officers were on foot and that there was no car around. He said that the transit group started running away from the army officers who reportedly “ran after us [the transit group] until they caught us.” The respondent explained that the officers were using torches and binoculars to search for the transit group but he was still unsure how the officers found the transit group in the first place. “I still don’t know how they managed to see us.”
The army officers ran after us [the transit group] until they caught us.
After all members of the transit group were caught by the army officers, they were reportedly asked where they were from and why they ran away. The respondent reported that he did not understand what the officers asked the transit group as he did not speak Bulgarian or English, but one member of the group was able to translate it for him. Reportedly, the officers did not take pictures or take personal information from the transit group but started to physically beat the transit group randomly. The respondent described the situation as “they [the army officers] just said why did you run away. Then they started beating us.” He reported that the officers were using batons to beat the transit group. The respondent noted that all members of the transit group were beaten by the officers and he described the sustained injuries as “very bad”.
The army officers just said why did you run away. Then they started beating us.
The respondent recalled that the army officers “called [for] support” upon which a green van arrived. He reported that the van was a Peugeot and that there was one army officer wearing the same camouflage uniform driving the van.
Before the transit group was taken to the van, the respondent reported that the officers body searched the entire group and that they took all their personal belongings. He stated that this happened to all seven members of the transit group and that the officers stole “everything. Money, phones, they even took the shoes.” The respondent further reported that no one in the transit group asked to get their belongings back because they were reportedly told that they will get beaten again.
The officerss stole everything. Money, phones, they even took the shoes
The respondent went on to explain that the officers used the van to transfer the transit group to the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The respondent could not recall the exact location and noted that he did not pay attention because he “was in pain”. He explained that there was a cell in the back of the van and that the transit group was sitting on the floor. The respondent reported that the drive was approximately 15 minutes long and that there was one officer driving the van. He explained that there was no stop during the drive and that the driving speed was slow. The respondent recalled that there was another car which he described as a green Land Rover following the van. Reportedly, there were two people who were wearing the same camouflage uniform.
The van reportedly stopped near the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The respondent reported that the officers walked the transit group to a hole in the fence and made them go through. During the pushback, the officers were reportedly continuously beating members of the transit group. The respondent reported that this did not happen to himself but he witnessed other people of the group getting beaten by the officers. He noted that the officers told them “to not come back” and that there were no people on the Turkish side of the fence. The respondent added that the border was mainly surrounded by forest. He further reported that it was still dark when the transit group arrived in Turkey.
The respondent reported that the transit group did not apply for asylum while being in Bulgaria. He noted that during the apprehension, the transfer to the border and the pushback none of the army officers “cared, wanted to know or investigated [my] age” even though he was a minor. He further reported that they were not provided with food or water during the incident.