The respondent, a 20-year-old Afghan, experienced two pushbacks, one from Greece to Turkey and the most recent one from Bulgaria to Turkey.
The respondent crossed on a Friday night, the 15th of October to Bulgaria, in company with 30 other people who were all male, from Afghanistan and between 20 – 30 years old. Among them, 6 minors under 18 were in the group, between 13 and 14 years old. Two of them were so badly hit that they fainted.
They walked fast for about two days until they got to a point in Bulgaria where they were told to wait for a smuggler to take them by car. The group got food for only two days as they have been told to walk for two days beforehand. The walk itself took them two days and through nights. After reaching the spot, 2,5 h of driving distance to Thessaloniki, the men waited for 8 days next to Highway 92, near to a forest but next to that Highway. During the 8 days of waiting, they hid in the forest. Normally 2 – 3 hours before the car arrives, the group is told to walk closer towards the highway. The car comes and people start running to get in. “If you are left, you are left”. They are not waiting for you. But this time the awaited car never came. 30 people stayed in the forest for 8 days with only food and water for max 2 days. They started eating plants and mushrooms out of desperation. Three men who had not eaten anything and were under 18, fainted. It was cold and raining and nobody was dressed properly for the weather conditions. Throughout the 8 days, it was mostly raining. On the 6th day of waiting, some men called the names of the three boys. They found them dead. “We could not do anything and left them. We could not bring them to Turkey, not take them to the other side. We put some leaves on them, big plants. And left.” They were so tired and could not walk. “We could not even shout for help because we didn’t have any energy to do that.”
The respondent explains how smugglers are organized: one guy knows the path and has 3 assistants who are helping with the process. In this case, the main smuggler was afghan and the three assistants pakistani/punjabi. After waiting for 5 days, the three assistants left and the main smuggler stayed. These four men had bags of food but did not share any of that. On the 6th day, the smuggler even realized or accepted that the car would not show up and accordingly left the group to themselves.
After staying in the forest for a total of 10 days, the respondent started a fire around 10 – 11 am so that someone would notice them by seeing smoke or fire. They knew that a shepherd with a dog was around. The shepherd let off his dog, the group feared that this was police. But the shepherd called the police anyway who arrived within 20 minutes.
7 – 8 policemen arrived all dressed in black clothes and Balaclavas. They were armed with guns and plastic batons and “Gendarmerie” written on their backs, as shown in the pictures below:
These 8 officers arrived in 4 cars, parked them a little further away, and walked with their dogs towards the respondent and group. Some German police officers were among them, so the other non-german officers did not hit the respondent and other men immediately but waited for the german police officers to leave. These German officers were dressed in normal clothes and a pullover with a german logo. The German officers allowed the group to sit down and relax, so some of the group were happy about having german officers there as well. The German officer asks who among the group spoke english. The respondent raised his hand and translated that he should not worry and that everybody will be fine and be taken to Thessaloniki.
There were four 4×4 pickup trucks in total which had “police” written on them. Up to 7 – 8 men were thrown into one truck. The respondent described the car as shown in the picture below:
The group consisted of 30 men before and now after 3 minors passed away, 27 – were all caught by the police. One dog was let on them. After putting everyone in the trucks, the drive took about 20 minutes and was very fast and reckless. The respondent couldn’t see anything during the drive, as the police forbid them to look at the surroundings.
After 20 minutes they arrived at a place close to the border. Another bigger, black car was parked. The respondent and other men were told to take off their shoes and lay down on their stomachs. Now that the German officers were no longer around – the officers started hitting the transit group with sticks.
After that, they were put on another drive for about 2,5 – 3 hours in a huge car. The driving was described as normal and they arrived at the Border of Bulgaria – Turkey. All the 27 people were in that one car, driven by two Bulgarian police officers who the respondent described as shown in the following pictures:
See: Image 1
After arriving at the border, they were beaten up by 6 officers who were wearing gloves and holding electric sticks – Electric Defense Weapons. The group was told to take all their clothes off. None of it was given back. The officers proceeded to then beat each person individually.
21 (out of 27) people got their arms broken, no matter if they were minors or not. Some fainted.
After everybody got beaten up, they had a slide on a little hill where they were shoved down without any clothing as some sort of protection but completely naked. On this hill were sharp stones and eventually everybody got injured and was bleeding. The other side of the hill apparently belongs to Turkey. Along the slide was water and stones were coming along. The men got additionally injured by hitting their heads against each other. The stones were cutting through their lower body sides.
At the bottom of the hill, the respondent got up and started walking, now on Turkish territory.
“We had no clothes, nothing.” Some villagers in Turkey found the men and gave them some clothing. Two men among the group could not move. They got back to a small village where some of the minors among the group got clothes. The villagers gave them water and one bread to share.
The respondent and the other men were indecisive about what to do, either run away or call the cops. 10 of the 27 were caught by the Jandarma in Turkey, including the respondent. After driving for 1,5 hours in the police car (which had red stripes), they arrived at another village and were let go. In this village, other people called the Jandarma who arrived and drove them for 2 further hours to Karakul, in Turkey. The Jandarma also gave them water and food, took photos of the respondent and other men, and also their fingerprints. They were brought to an afghan camp (Pahlavan Qoi) where they met all kinds of people. After 4 days, the respondent and other men were told they could not stay in the camp.
4 days later, the respondent and the 10 other men got into a minibus. The driver called some taxis, which charged 350 TL per person, 4 people in one taxi to Istanbul.