This testimony recounts a violent pushback from Bulgaria to Turkey. The respondent, a 27-year-old man from Algeria was part of the pushback group. This was the 7th pushback he had suffered – two being from Greece to Turkey and five from Bulgaria to Turkey.
On 6th April, the respondent, together with three other people, one woman and two men aged between 27 and 33 years old, crossed the Bulgarian/Turkish border near the Turkish town of Şükrüpaşa. After walking for nine hours, at 7 am (7/4/2022) the sun was rising and the group decided to stop. The respondent said they walked almost 30 kilometers. The respondent recalled how they were sitting on a high hill near an unpaved road close to the Bulgarian town of Balgari. When the group was waiting here they realized someone was approaching them. Initially thinking that the people that approached them were “normal citizens” or other people on the move, the respondent described how a group of six men appeared.
Two of the men wore sacramento green pants, a forest green long sleeve shirt with written “Bulgarian border” on the back, and a Bulgarian flag on their arms. The other four men were wearing sacramento green jackets and pants. The respondent identified the uniforms of the two men as similar to image 1 and the uniforms of the four men as image 2.
The respondent described that when the men saw them, they pointed their guns at them and one man fired one shot. This shot was not in the air but directed near to them. The respondent identified the handgun as being similar to the one pictured below.
The men started shouting in Bulgarian and “immediately started kicking us” [us refers to the whole group]. The respondent said they were repeating the word “zadnik” constantly [translates into asshole]. He told us that the woman started crying which didn’t stop the six men from beating them; they slapped her on the back of her head. “We asked for mercy but they kept kicking us”. The beating continued for about twenty minutes.
The respondent described how the men had to undress completely. They had to give up their phones. The phones were put in one plastic bag and the shoes and jacket in another big black bag. The group was then forcibly searched. The woman was searched by a man. This took around forty minutes.
After around forty minutes the men escorted the group along the unpaved road where the six men parked their cars. The respondent saw two cars that he described as a Discovery that had written “police” in white on them. The respondent identified the car as being similar to the one in image 4. The respondent describes how they put them in the trunk of the car. The trunk was around one by one or one by two-meter and it was not possible to look outside.
“They put me and my friend in one car and the woman and the other person in the other car. There were three men in every car.”
They then drove the group to the border. The ride took around one hour. The car was sometimes driving fast and sometimes slow. The respondent said that around five minutes before arriving at the location the car was driving slow and uphill before arriving at the pushback location. In response to questions about the drive to the pushback point, the respondent stated: “I get used to all the brutality we face every time”.
It was around 9 am when the car stopped. We stopped near the fence in an area that the respondent described as a “yard” between the fence and the hill. The respondent saw mountains on both sides of the border. On the Bulgarian side of the border, there was a small forest and a small hill about 200 meters from the fence. There was an unpaved road on the hill at the end of the hill.
The group had to leave the car and were ordered to sit down. The respondent said, “we had to raise our legs in the air and hit us on our legs. Then we were asked to stand up and [the men in green uniforms] started kicking us with their knees in our stomach and punching us”. [..] “We were like a punching bag, they kicked and punched us”. The woman in the group was not excluded from this beating that lasted for about five minutes.
After the beating, the group was escorted to the fence from where they were pushed back to Turkey around 9.20 am. The respondent described how they crossed the border through a “flipped door”. This flipped door, as described by the respondent, had to be opened from the top through which a small hole at the bottom of the fence appeared. The respondent and the other people had to crawl through this hole.
According to the respondent, the time between arriving at the pushback scene and crossing the border [pushed back] took around twenty minutes. Their confiscated belongings were not returned and the group was not offered food or water. The men in green uniforms were speaking Bulgarian and a little English and there was no translator present. When asked if the intention to claim asylum was expressed, the respondent said “nobody can ask them [men in green uniform] anything. I tried to talk to them but they separated me from the group and started beating me”. “[..] Forget about human rights in Bulgaria”.
When they arrived in Turkey the group started walking on their bare feet. The group crossed a small river and started walking towards the South. They tried to find a way to get to Edirne but the group got lost. After walking for two hours the group walked through farmland and followed an unpaved road that led them to the village of Sislioba. In the village, a man gave them a ride to another village called Yeni. The man that brought them to Yeni gave them 70 TL for them to take the minibus to Kırklareli. From Kırklareli they walked for seven hours to eventually arrive in Edirne.