The respondent, a 26-year-old man and from Syria, experienced his third pushback, the most recent one from Elchowo, Bulgaria to Hacilar, Turkey on the 10th of September.
He started walking from Edirne on the 8th of September with 2 friends from Morocco and Tunisia who are 24 and 28 years old. They walked for what felt like about 6 hours until they reached the barbed fence at around 7 pm, from where they crossed by jumping. The location must be near Hamzabeyli.
Once in Bulgarian territory, the three walked 24 km for one and a half days and 2 nights in the mountains. In total, they rested twice, for each time 15 minutes along the road. While being lost and searching for the way in the forest, they got apprehended at about 10 pm near Malomirovo by 3 patrolling police officers.
These officers were armed with guns and dressed in sage green pants and shirts, with the Bulgarian insignia and “border police” written in English on their backs.
The respondent and his two friends were apprehended and stayed in the forest nearby Malomirovo for 30 minutes. The officers asked them in broken English where the respondent and his friends were from, to which they answered that they were all from Syria.
In response, the officers started kicking the respondent and his two friends. After 30 minutes, 3 other officers came, who were dressed in sage green pants and shirts and with the same insignia as the uniform described above. They arrived in a vehicle similar to a green Land Rover.
These officers searched the group and took their phones as well as their clothes (which were never returned). In total, they stayed with the transit group at the point of apprehension for one hour until a green Jeep-like vehicle arrived.
The officers in this vehicle were told to bring the transit group to the border fence. 2 officers, dressed as well in sage green uniforms with “border police” written on the back were driving the vehicle.
The respondent and the two other men in the transit group were pushed to get in the trunk of the car, which was 1×1 m in size and without a place to sit. Three officers drove from the apprehension point for about 40 min on an unpaved road. The driving was reckless and too fast so the respondent kept colliding and hitting his head with the others.
At the border fence, 3 other officers in sage green uniform shirts and pants were also present. “Border police ” was written on their backs and a Bulgarian flag insignia on their arm sleeves.
The respondent could hear them speaking Bulgarian with each other and English to him. They started hitting and beating the group with a branch and with a baton, with which they had been threatened beforehand.
The respondent described the pushback point as being surrounded by a forest and a road next to the barbed wire fence. In the fence, there was something that resembled a “garage door” that could be pushed up by the officers. They were told to leave through this “garage door” and go to Turkey.
After walking for 2 hours through a forest, the respondent and his two friends arrived at a small village called Hacilar, 45 km away from Edirne. They started walking towards Edirne until an old man gave them a ride to Edirne.
“I want only to know why they are doing this, what we did to be that violent with us. All what we wanted is to live in peace in Europe, the peace we see on TV. We lost everything and all our hope in our home town and now we lost all the hope and dignity.”
Throughout the whole pushback, no water or food was given to them. The group expressed the intention to ask for asylum but instead the officers got angry, kicked the respondent on the chest, and told them “Sofia no camp, no Bulgaria”.