In the early afternoon of September 19th a 33-year-old Moroccan man was beaten, verbally assaulted, and pushed back over the Bulgarian border to Turkey.
The respondent and six other companions – aged between 20-40 years old, from Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Morocco – were driven 30km towards the Bulgarian border. The time was approximately 8:00am. They were crossing from near to Suakacağı. While waiting near the border before crossing over, they spotted a Bulgarian officer patrolling. After around an hour, they crossed the border.
The group continued walking towards Varnik where they intended to get a driven into Sofia. Only 2 km before reaching Varnik, they came face-to-face with a patrol car. They were surrounded.
Attempting to avoid capture, the respondent ran but was soon fired at by one of the officers. Scared for his life, he stopped – hands raised, conceding to whatever would come. The respondent was met by a strong blow to the face by the officer’s foot, then a punch. He soon stared down the barrel of the officer’s gun. “Shte te ubiya – I will kill you,” threatened the officer. When the respondent then asked for asylum, the officer laughed and said, “I will kill you if you [come] back to Bulgaria again.” The verbal harassment continued until the respondent was forced to rejoin the group of six.
He found the remaining officers guarding his travel companions. There were four officers in total. Three were dressed in green sage uniforms, including a Bulgarian flag and ‘Border Police’ written on the back. The fourth wore a black uniform with a Bulgarian flag on his chest along with a blue armband which is consistent with the Frontex uniform as in the image below. The cars that surrounded them were two deep green LandRover Discovery including ‘CB’ on the license plate – the city code of Sofia.
The respondent was searched and stripped of all possessions – including his phone and cash. When reportedly imploring one of the officers to return his papers, the officer responded by asking the respondent in Bulgarian to “kiss his shoes….” and kicked him in the stomach. With the seven now under the police’s control, the respondent was ordered to strip completely naked and demanded to bring the officer a branch. The respondent was dressed only his socks while the officer beat him for 20 minutes using the branch and while another officer whipped him with the belt of another group member’s trousers. The other group members were subjected to similar beatings, though only for two-three seconds while clothed. The time was approximately 12:00.
The group was then forcibly loaded into the jeeps’ trunks – three people in one car and four in the other. They were driven recklessly for approximately five kms towards the border on an unpaved road, with no venitlation despite the high heat. The trunk was reportedly no bigger than two-meters by one-meter with virtually no room to move. Limited by the sheer density of the people, breathing soon became difficult. Yelling through the trunk, the group cried out to the officers to “open the window so we can breathe…but [they] didn’t care.” After 15 minutes, the cars came to a stop. Speaking through the fenced window of the trunk, all seven were commanded to get out.
As the door of the trunk opened, the officers reportedly used batons – hitting the men as they spilled out of the vehicles. The respondent found himself surrounded by a forest near Matochina. There, the group were hurriedly pushed back over the Turkish border. Back on Turkish soil, the group of six ran towards Edirne – leaving the respondent to walk the remaining six kms back to Edirne naked and alone.
From the time of apprehension to pushback, the group was given neither food nor water. No one’s fingerprints were taken nor papers signed.