The respondent is a 24-year-old man from Morocco. He was traveling in a group of 4 people, all Moroccan males aged 24-31, from Turkey to Bulgaria on 03/11/2021. This was the third time they had attempted to make the crossing, having been pushed back twice already.
On Wednesday the 3rd of November at 8 am, the group took the bus for 3 hours from Istanbul to Kirklareli. After arriving, the group walked for the whole day to reach the Turkish/ Bulgarian border close to Dereköy. The weather was so cold the group felt that they could not stop to rest and walked for 7 hours to reach Dereköy then for a further 4 hours to reach the border. They arrived at the fence around midnight.
It took the group a long time to reach the fence as they got lost in the forest trying to avoid a Turkish army barracks.
The group hid in the forest close to the fence for the night of the 3rd of November and the morning of the 4th of November. They crossed the border with Bulgaria close to an unpaved road patrolled by cars. One patrol car crossed while the group were waiting, a black discovery land rover that the respondent identified from the picture below. The respondent could not see any markings identifying the car as a border patrol car and could not see how many occupants were inside.
At around 10 am on the 4th of November, the group crossed into Bulgaria by jumping the fence. They walked 10 km over 5 hours, moving between the trees in the forest. The group crossed Malko Tarnovo and a paved road after around 3 hours of walking and then walked a further 2 hours in the forest.
The group was resting by a river when they started to hear voices yelling and dogs. The voices were coming from behind them and they could hear someone laughing. The respondent believes they were speaking Bulgarian. At first the group tried to run but then one member of the group suggested they hide instead and crawl and move slowly. The respondent could not see anyone at this point but could hear their voices.
One member of the group started running so the rest of the group started moving too. They were preparing to run but heard the dogs close behind. The dog then started to bite the respondent. The respondent also reports that police officers came, and the other 2 members of the group kneeled and raised their arms in the air. The police officer kicked these men.
The dog continued to bite the respondent, identified as a German Shepherd pictured below.
There were 7 officers present in total wearing 2 different uniforms. 3 officers wore a black jacket, black pants, and boots. The respondent stated that it was similar to the uniform pictured below, but without balaclavas, logos or badges. They did not have any sign to show that they were officers except that they carried a gun in a holster.
The other 4 officers wore a Sacramento green uniform jacket with pants and black boots. The respondent identified this uniform as the picture below. There was a Bulgarian flag logo on their arms and the word police was written on their backs. These officers also kicked members of the group and talked to each other in Bulgarian.
One officer asked in English where the group was from. The respondent stated that they were Palestinian, rather than admitting they were from Morocco which is considered by many to be a safe country of origin. The officer responded ‘yeah, yeah’, while shaking his head. He asked the respondent in broken French if he spoke French. The respondent replied no, and then he asked, ‘Ou vous voulez partir?’ (‘Where do you want to go?’) The respondent replied ‘Italy’ and the officer started laughing.
The respondent claims that the officers forced the group to kneel on the ground to be searched. They took their phones and told them to empty their pockets. The officers hit one of the friends of the respondent with a plastic baton and told him to gather the bags of the whole group and put them together. The bags and phones were never returned to their owners.
The group stayed in the same spot with the officers for around 40 minutes until around 5pm. One of the officers in the green uniforms then started to kick the group, telling them to ‘go, go, go,’ and forcing them to stand up and walk.
The group walked for around 20 minutes to reach the officers’ 2 cars. The cars were parked on an unpaved road on the side of a mountain. One car was blue and white and the other was green.
The respondents were loaded into the trunk of the green jeep, a space of around 2m by 1m at most. Then 4 officers drove the car for 30 minutes to the fence, 5 minutes along an unpaved road, 10 minutes on a paved road, and the rest on an unpaved road through the mountains. The respondents could see out through a small window. At some point the blue and white car took another road. The driving was fast and reckless on the unpaved roads.
When the car arrived at the fence in the forest, they forced the group to get out and kneel on the ground. Three of the officers watched the group while another officer opened a big door in the fence. The respondent stated this looked like a military entrance, not an official looking door.
The respondent reports that 2 officers asked the group for money. The group didn’t answer and just looked at them. Then the officers got angry, and one started hitting them on the legs with a baton while the other kicked them. This lasted for around 3 minutes. The group did not give the officers any money because they didn’t have any.
The officers started screaming ‘go, go, go!’ and followed them through the door, hitting them with batons. The group ran from the door back into Turkey.
The group were unable to ask for asylum as they were afraid to get beaten by the officers. They were never given any food or water by the officers or asked to sign any papers.