The respondent is a 35-year-old man from Tunisia. On September 13th he left Istanbul with three other people also from Tunisia. They reportedly took a car from Istanbul to Alibey, and once they reached Alibey, they walked to the border fence and crossed into Bulgaria.
They then reportedly walked for the entire day through the forest further into Bulgarian territory. Eventually they found a farm filled with farm animals and managed to sleep in the barn, but the respondent stated it was very dirty and smelly. They then walked a further four days until they were close to the Black Sea. The respondent recalled that they came across a village where they found a bus stop and took a minibus to Burgas.
Once in Burgas, they used Google Earth to find the train station and went there, described the respondent. They then reportedly bought some tickets and waited around 15 minutes in the train station until the train pulled in. Once they got on the train, the respondent noted that it was full of other people on the move described as being from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. The respondent explained that the train did not move for some time, and after approximately 10-15 minutes, a number of uniformed men entered their train carriage. The respondent stated that there were 12 officers wearing a black and white police uniform with a Bulgarian flag on the upper arm – consistent with the standard Bulgarian police uniform. The officers then reportedly proceeded to handcuff each of the people on the move with plastic zip ties and beat them with batons as they unloaded them from the train. After waiting for approximately 30 minutes, the respondent stated a white minibus arrived at the scene. The respondent reported it was unmarked but noticed that it was a Volvo. At this point, approximately 32 people had been apprehended in the train and were waiting outside the train station. All 32 people, including the respondent, were loaded into the minibus; there was not enough space for them so they were cramped in and forced to both sit and stand.
According to the respondent, the transit group was transferred to the police station in Burgas where they were taken to an empty large room. They reportedly waited in that room for approximately 15 minutes until a Syrian translator came. The respondent stated that the Syrian translator came in and told the group that if they paid 500 US Dollars they would be transferred to the Sofia camp and be able to take papers regularising their stay in the country. The respondent stated that the majority of the Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian nationals took this offer, were taken out of the room, fingerprinted, had their photos taken and were transferred in another vehicle. The respondent saw this vehicle and described it as a ‘transit van’ that was black with a white stripe and had open windows and proper seats.
Following this, there were approximately 16 people remaining in the cell. They waited for approximately another 30 minutes and then six individuals entered the room, recalled the respondent. The respondent described them as ‘border police’ officers, wearing an ‘army uniform’ with border police written on it and a Bulgarian flag on the upper arm. These officers took the remaining 16 people on the move out of the room to where three vehicles were waiting, explained the respondent. These vehicles were described as black range rovers. Approximately five people on the move were reportedly loaded into the open truck of each range rover.
The respondent then stated that the vehicles left the police station and drove approximately one hour and 15 minutes to a hole in the border fence. The ‘border police’ took the people out of the back of the range rovers, group by group. The respondent said the officers searched them, took their phones, money, jackets and winter clothes and moved them closer to the border fence. Reportedly, they arranged them into groups of four next to the border fence and each group had an officer on either side of them that proceeded to beat them with batons; each beating lasted for approximately 10 minutes and the people were beaten all over their bodies. They were then told to take their shoes off and were pushed back through the hole in the fence in just their under clothes, explained the respondent. Once they had crossed back into Turkish territory, the respondent stated that the ‘border police’ proceeded to fire several shots in the air and told them to ‘run’. The group slept one night in the forest and in the morning Turkish workers came through and helped them to arrange a taxi to return to Istanbul.