“A bullet could have come out at any second and killed one of us”

  • Date and time: April 7, 2022 10:00
  • Location: Kosti (BG) /Avcılar (TR)
  • Coordinates: 42.0579954, 27.7800404
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 2 person(s), age: 34-38 years old , from: Morocco
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 2x black Land Rover Discoverys with “border police” written in white uppercase letters on the front as well as on the side; 4x men wearing Sacramento green jackets and pants and black boots; 1x green jeep with Bulgarian writing on the side of it and a spare wheel on the back; 2x men wearing dark blue uniforms with “police” written on their arms and across their backs
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 34-year-old Moroccan man, was pushed back from Kosti, Bulgaria to Avcılar, Turkey, on April 7, 2022. This was the 5th time he was the victim of a pushback, having been illegally pushed back from Greece once and Bulgaria three previous times.

On April 4, the respondent and his friend, a 38-year-old Tunisian man, took a bus from Edirne to Demirköy at 10 am. The ride took about 30 minutes, after which they walked for around three hours until they arrived at the border at approximately 2 pm. The respondent described the spot where they crossed, saying, “it wasn’t near any village or city. It was in the middle of a forest, there were trees. We hid there looking around to see if any car was driving by at that moment. There was an unpaved road in Bulgarian territory after the fence.” The fence was about five meters high and had barbed wire “from top to bottom.” 

After an hour, the respondent and his friend jumped over the fence and ran for 15 minutes, or about two kilometers. Then, they stopped to catch their breath for about 15 minutes before continuing to walk farther into Bulgarian territory. They walked for three days, mostly resting during the day and mostly walking at night. 

At 8 am on April 7, they were apprehended near a public water fountain at the entrance of Malomirovo. The respondent recalled, “We were so thirsty we stopped to drink water from the public water fountain. It was already early morning and when the cars were driving on the road we thought they were civilian cars because they weren’t typical police cars, which are blue and white. But when they arrived, they immediately got out  of the cars and caught us. We saw “border police” written and we knew we were caught.” 

The cars were two black Land Rover Discoverys. They had “border police” written in white uppercase letters on the front as well as the side. The respondent identified the cars from the following picture. 

Image 1: Bulgarian Border Police – Discovery Landrovers 

Four men got out of the cars. They were wearing Sacramento green jackets and pants and black boots. They had “border police” written on their backs and an insignia of a lion with Bulgarian flag colors—white, red, and green—on their shoulders. The respondent recognized the uniforms from the picture below.

Image 2: Bulgarian border police jackets

Three of the men carried guns in their holsters, but one had it out and aimed it at the respondent and his friend. The respondent said, “The gun was aimed at us and the man was nervous and angry and kept moving the gun so we wouldn’t move. A bullet could have come out at any second and killed one of us.” He said it was similar to the gun in the following picture.

Image 3: Makarov 9×18 mmGun / Soviet semi-automatic pistol: Markarov pistol

At first, the uniformed men only spoke in Bulgarian, but they eventually spoke a little English, saying “don’t move” and “fuck you.” Then, they put the respondent and his friend in handcuffs and made them walk into the woods, where they forced them to kneel, kicked them, and searched them, taking away their phones, jackets, backpacks, shoes, a total of 70 Lev. The respondent said the uniformed men asked them where they were from and where they wanted to go, but hit and kicked them when they responded. The respondent recalled, “I said ‘I want to go to Germany and apply for asylum there. I will not stay in Bulgaria.’ He kicked me on my chest and told me ‘No Europe’ and he kicked me on my stomach and told me ‘I will kill you.’”

After about 30 minutes, a green jeep with Bulgarian writing on the side of it and a spare wheel on the back arrived. Its trunk window was tinted black and its license plate started with “BG”. The respondent recognized it from the picture below.

Image 4: Bulgarian Police Jeep

Two men wearing dark blue uniforms with “police” written on their arms and across their backs were driving the vehicle. The respondent said their uniforms matched the ones in the following picture. 

Image 5: Blue Bulgarian Police Uniform, close up

The respondent and his friend were loaded into the trunk, which measured about one by two meters, and didn’t have any seats. They were driven for about 40 minutes; the respondent said the driving was “fast and reckless” along unpaved roads, which they could feel but not see due to the blackened windows.

When they arrived at the border, they were taken out of the car and found that the two black cars and four men in the green uniforms had accompanied them there. There was also a large, unofficial door – so the respondent assumed – in the fence, which was about five meters high and three meters wide. At first, the door wouldn’t open, and one of the men got so angry that he kicked and beat the respondent and his friend with a plastic baton. The respondent guessed he was angry because he thought he had driven all the way there for nothing, and blamed them. The beatings lasted for around ten minutes, with the other men in the green uniforms joining in. 

After approximately 30 minutes, during which time they remained sitting on the ground, the door finally opened. The respondent estimated that this happened at around 10 am. The uniformed men forced the respondent and his friend to go through the door and enter Turkish territory. Before they were pushed back, one of the uniformed men said to them, “If you come back to Bulgaria I will kill you.”

The respondent and his friend walked, barefoot, for about an hour and a half until they arrived at a village called Avcılar. There, they were able to get a taxi back to Edirne.

When asked if he or his friend had asked for asylum in Bulgaria, the respondent said, “While they beat us I told them ‘Camp,’ but that probably made them more angry. They kept beating us and didn’t care about what I said.”