The respondent, a 48-year-old Syrian man, went to Bulgaria in a group with 14 other people. In the group there were 13 Syrians and two Afghans between the ages of 16 and 48, including three women. They hired two smugglers, who took them to a spot around 100 kilometres away from Edirne, where one of them cut a hole in a fence on the Turkish-Bulgarian border and let them through. He then returned to Turkey but the other smuggler continued on with them.
In Bulgaria, they walked from about 2 am until 7 pm, when the entire group (including the smuggler) was apprehended by police, close to Fakiya. The respondent recalled, “We were walking in a dry riverbed when they apprehended us. Actually, a dog attacked us and then the officers came. The dog kept biting the women’s shoes.” There were either three or four officers wearing black uniforms and sage green uniforms. The respondent said, “I could not focus very well and see, because we did not have time for that”.
The officers searched the group and hit them with a baton, beating the 16-year-old especially hard. They made them walk about 15 minutes until they met up with three more officers and then walked another 30 minutes until they arrived at a spot with over ten additional officers. The respondent wasn’t able to see very much, because “moving your head from the ground wasn’t allowed,” but he heard them laughing and talking to each other in a language that he guessed was Bulgarian. Neither he nor anyone else was able to ask for asylum; he said, “No one could speak, no one could talk, no one could breathe, no one could move.”
“They kicked us and punched us. They beat us with a stick—everywhere and everybody. On the head, on the stomach; they beat us everywhere…there were even some who were injured in their eyes.”
Everyone in the group, except the women, were beaten by the officers for about five minutes. The respondent recalled, “The women weren’t searched. [The officers] only checked their bags and then they divided us in pickup trucks like sheep.” The people in the group were split up and loaded into the back of two green Landrovers. Inside the car was very crowded; there were seven people in a space that was only about 1.5 meters long.
There were three officers in the respondent’s car. Two were wearing dark blue uniforms and one was wearing camouflage military clothing. The driver drove them fast down an unpaved road for about 15 minutes and then stopped at a door in the border fence, opened it, and drove through. This was identified as near Malko Tarnovo. The respondent said:
“They took us to the other side of the fence. They opened a big door on the fence and the car drove for two or three seconds. They took us out, continuing to beat us randomly everywhere…They broke branches from the tree— big ones—and kept beating us with those branches. They were almost three centimeters wide.”
The respondent said they beat everyone in his group but that he “didn’t see them beating women. They took the women to a different point.” The beatings lasted around three or four minutes and each person was also searched “from head to toe” for around five minutes. The officers took their phones, bags, and other supplies away from them. The respondent recollected:
“They kept asking us if we had money or not. We told them that we didn’t have any money…They continued to beat us a lot. Words can’t describe how cruel and brutal they were with us. One [officer] kicking us and the other beating us with the branch. Then, they told us to stand up and they counted from one to three to let us run away from them. While we were trying to run, the one holding the branch ran after us and hit us on our backs. Then, to make us run, they fired a gunshot into the air.”
No one in the group was able to ask for asylum, and the respondent made sure to point out that “…they didn’t follow any procedure. And you know, the last beating was in Turkish territory. They brought us to Turkish territory and beat us there.” The closest point after crossing into Turkey was identified as Karadere.
In Turkey, the respondent said:
“We were in the mountains. And we didn’t know where we were exactly. Then, I lost my brother. I don’t know where he is right now. I came on my own in the dark and the rain. From that night until the morning, I was in the rain.”
The respondent’s brother had been pushed back with a different group, but the two were later reunited.
To get back to Edirne, which the respondent estimated was about 100 kilometers away, he paid a taxi 1000 Turkish lira.