The respondent, a 24-year-old man from Tunisia experienced his second pushback, from Bulgaria, Golyam dervent to Kücünlü, Turkey.
At around 6 pm on the 14th of October, he took a minibus near Lalapasa for about 30 minutes. He and 2 Moroccan men, between 29 – 40 years old, continued walking for 4 hours to arrive at a place near Hamzabeyli, near the fence. They arrived at 11 pm and waited another 30 minutes before they crossed the border. The respondent injured himself while crossing. After crossing, the respondent reported that they ran non-stop for 2 km and walked for another 2 hours until they had to rest for a bit because of exhaustion.
The respondent and the two men crossed an unpaved road and rested between trees, in a small forest near a village called “Razdel”. For almost 1 hour they stayed there, meanwhile trying to figure out how to cross to not be seen by citizens or police.
The aim was to get to another city where a bus might take them to Sofia. “We were so afraid of being caught cause we knew what was going to happen if we would be caught”. The respondent already had experienced one pushback from Greece and heard about the violent pushbacks, especially at Bulgarian borders.
For another four hours and 14 kilometers, they continued walking. They discussed whether to get tickets from Elhovo, which they were 4 km far away but they decided to continue walking. They spent some time in a hidden spot on an agriculture acre as the sun was about to rise at almost 6 am, now the 15th of October.
The three men spend the day hiding in that spot from where they could see around and leave when they believed to be safe. From there they could see some houses and the city, with many unpaved roads next to them.
Until 5 pm, so nearly the whole day, no one crossed and they didn’t see anyone. They continued walking towards Yambol to get a ticket to Sofia.
Just 15 minutes later, they were apprehended while crossing a paved road. A black Land Rover with a small trunk in the back and “Police” written on the side, was parked on the side of the road and a man started shouting at them. Another man was sitting in the co-drivers seat.
The respondent and his friends started running and hiding, but the car started driving and catching them. Another car arrived and started looking for them with torches. Due to the darkness, the respondent couldn’t identify the color of the second car.
The place where the three were trying to hide was open land. Six officers looked for them everywhere and one let a dog search. This one found the respondent and started biting and scratching him all over his body. Two other officers came and started screaming at the respondent but stopped the dog. They reportedly spoke Bulgarian and a few words in English. One of the respondents’ friends was also apprehended and brought together. The officers reportedly started kicking random body parts again and asked for the third friend.
He was found by the dog, and one of the officers dragged him by his hair.
The second car was a forest-green jeep.
In total, six officers were on site. Five of them were wearing sacramento green-colored jackets and pants with the Bulgarian flag stitched to their arm sleeves and insignia on their chest, as the respondent recalls.
The other officer was wearing civilian clothing, such as a jacket, a shirt, and black shoes. He was speaking Bulgarian, the respondent assumes. The apprehension was close to Elhovo, shortly after they crossed the paved road which leads to Elhovo.
The respondent and his two friends were told to kneel down for one hour, and the officers smoked, talked, and laughed with each other. Among each other, they spoke in a language that the respondent did not understand but assumed to be Bulgarian. They spoke in English to the respondent’s group. They asked some questions such as where they are from, whether they are alone or with others, and from where exactly they crossed. They answered that they are from Tunisia and Morocco and just themselves. In reaction to that, one officer came and reportedly kicked and slapped the respondent, while saying “Fuck you”.
One by one the travelers were pulled, asked to stand up in a line, and searched. Everybody was reportedly forced to get completely undressed. “We were asked to take off all our clothes, we were totally naked and it was so cold.” Their phones, power bank, and bags were searched and taken. The officers did not find the money as that was hidden. One officer asked “Money” and started throwing their clothes and bags on the respondent and his two friends. “He became so angry” and started hitting them with a plastic baton for two minutes randomly.
The respondent told the officer to wait for a minute, searched his pants, and gave all the money he had: 60 Bulgarian leva. The officer slapped the respondent twice, and his glasses fell. He searched for them on the ground as he needed them to see clearly but was reportedly kicked by the officer and told to sit down.
One of his friends also had money hidden in a small pocket inside his bag, the other one did not have any money at all. They were not beaten up but told to sit as well. The money of course was also taken. Only pants, shirts, and shoes were returned.
After one hour and 30 minutes of waiting on the ground, at around 6 or 7 pm, the officers loaded the three men in the trunk of a car, which the respondent could not identify.
The trunk itself was locked from all sides, three by one meter in size. All three were loaded inside the trunk and because of the small size, they started panicking and breathing very fast.
The trunk itself had two windows but looking outside was impossible, as they were locked by wooden plates.
After a 15 min drive on first unpaved, then paved road, and further again unpaved road, they arrived at a place near the fence. The drive itself was fast and totally reckless.
“I couldn’t hold on because I was afraid to lose my glasses again. Sometimes I hit the sides of the trunk when they drifted. It was like they were carrying ice, so fast they were driving, so it wouldn’t melt”.
Once they arrived at the site, another car was parked and they took them out of the trunk. The officers reportedly asked them to “crawl through the door to go back to Turkey”, from a small door in the fence. The respondent describes the door as a small garage door, which they pulled up in order to open. The officers reportedly gave them one kick in the back, and said: “Go Turkey, no Bulgaria, No Europe, Fuck you”. That was about 7 pm.
The intention to ask for asylum was expressed at the apprehension site after the officers gathered the three of them together. “We wanted to go to the Camp, to Sofia or Serbia”. The officer just screamed something which they could not understand and kicked the respondent in his chest.
After being pushed back, the three were walking in a small forest, not far from where they crossed the day before. They walked for 30 min until meeting a man who gave them a ride to Kücünlü and another Taxi at 7:20 to Edirne, where they arrived at 8 pm.