The respondent, a 32-year-old Algerian male, was pushed back from Sladun, Bulgaria to Büyükismailce, Turkey at approximately 9:00 on the 6th of November. This was his fifth pushback from Bulgaria along with two other pushbacks from Greece.
Along with one other travel companion — a 27-year-old Algerian male — he attempted to reach Sofia. Leaving by foot from Edirne five days prior, the two men reached the border fence at around 23:30 on the 1st. Taking a rest near a small town, they waited until around 4:00 on the 2nd before crossing the border. They spent the next four days navigating the Bulgarian forest by foot along an unpaved road — sleeping by day and walking by night. No rest except for short 30-minute intervals were taken.
By around 17:00 on the 5th of November, with supplies running low, they decided to veer off the forest road to a nearby town of Nadezhen to purchase basic necessities. With 40 BGN (Bulgarian lev) in hand, the respondent tried to purchase food and water. Moments later, the shopkeeper began to scream, “police” as the two men fled the store. Attempting to avoid capture, the men hid in a forest adjacent to the village Charmanli where they rested for the night.
Early the next morning, the respondent and his friend walked to the nearest train station. At around 6:30 they entered the station hoping to purchase tickets to Sofia. Within a few minutes, they had already been spotted by two officers reportedly in civilian clothing. One was reportedly dressed in a white shirt, brown jacket, and blue trousers while the other was in a blue shirt, black leather jacket, and similar trousers. They approached the respondent and his friend, told them that they are police officers, and asked for their passports. To confirm their identity, one officer flashed his gun which was reportedly tucked in the holster. No other identification was presented to the respondent or his friend confirming the officers’ status. When the respondent and his friends told the two police officers that they had no identification, they were brought to the corner of the station and told to wait. Out of clear public view, the two officers then questioned their nationality, to which the cops responded saying, “no problem….camp.” From the little English the respondent spoke, the clear mention of a camp led him to believe that they would soon be taken to a camp where they could then request asylum. However, the respondent was never given that chance.
Around 20 minutes later, the two men were escorted outside of the train station to a small, abandoned building where they found a police car. The respondent confirmed that the vehicle was a Bulgarian border police Land Rover. The time was around 7:15. Inside the car, there were two more police officers, both of whom were dressed in full sacramento green uniforms with ‘Police’ written on the back. The respondent and his friend were loaded into the back seat of the vehicle and driven for around one and a half hours to the pushback site. Along the route, the respondent recognised certain villages and the road they had used to arrive at the station. Inside the car, the two officers asked in English to confirm their nationalities. When speaking with each other, the officers likely spoke in Bulgarian. The majority of the drive was on a paved road; the final five minutes before the border was unpaved.
At approximately 8:30, the car came to a halt. When the door to the backseat was opened, the respondent saw another car and three additional border police wearing the same uniform as those in the car (see Image 2). The car was reportedly a green-and-white jeep with ‘Police’ written on the front (see Image 3). Outside, the respondent reported that he saw white rocks near the unpaved road. One officer reportedly mockingly looked at them and said “ooh, ooh!” — a reaction to them being transported in the backseat rather than in the trunk. Addressing them in English, the officer then asked for their phones and money. They handed over everything they had, including their one phone, power bank, and remaining 30 BGN. Nothing was returned. Unconvinced that they weren’t hiding anything else, the officers forced the men to strip naked. Once everything had been searched, the officers returned only their underwear and t-shirts, then proceeded to kick and beat them with branches — reportedly focusing their blows to the backs and legs. After 30 minutes subjected to violence and humiliation, they opened a small door in the border fence and forced the two men back across to Turkey.
Reaching the other side around 9:00, the respondent reported that he saw trees and a crop field. They walked for nearly three hours before reaching the town of Büyükismailce. Near the town, a man offered to drive them the next stretch to Edirne. They arrived at approximately 13:30 on the 6th of November. No food, water, or medical support was offered during the entirety of their captivity. No documents were signed, photos taken or translators provided.