“I will be dead before I even finish the word. You really don’t know how brutal they are”

  • Date and time: April 9, 2022 00:00
  • Location: Valcha Polyna/ Hamzabeyli
  • Coordinates: 41.964762, 26.643187
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 1 person(s), age: 22 , from: Syria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 2x men in bulgarian border police uniform; 1x man in sacramento green jacket and trousers; 1 x green bulgarian jeep; 1x black discovery land rover with “border police” written on it; 1 x russian pistol;
  • 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 22 year old man from Syria, recounts his third pushback he has been subjected to from Valcha Polyna, Bulgaria, to Hamzabeyli, Turkey, on 9th April 2022. He was travelling alone.

The respondent crossed to Bulgaria with the use of a smuggler at the border near Hamzabeyli at 10am on 9th April. He had organised to travel to Sofia with the use of a car once in Bulgaria. He jumped across the fence at the border.

Just before crossing the border the respondent noticed a drone flying overhead. It was a white drone, with 4 “arms”, that the respondent believed was “surveying the Turkish territory” for a total of “four minutes” and then returned from the Turkish to the Bulgarian side. The respondent explained that he stayed for 15 minutes before crossing. The drone did not follow him, it looked like it was just surveying the area. He crossed the border at approx ~10.30am. 

The respondent walked through a forest to reach the place where he would be picked up by a car, to then be taken to Sofia. He walked for about 2 hours, crossing 7km. After 2 hours, at about 12pm, he was apprehended in the forest near to an unpaved road. 

Three men approached the respondent, two were dressed in forest green shirts with long sleeves and green trousers, and one was wearing a sacramento green jacket and trousers. One the back of all of these uniforms was “border police” written in white, with the Bulgarian flag on their arm. The respondent was able to identify the below two images as the same as the three men wore.

Image 1: Backs of Bulgarian Border Police uniforms
Image 2: Bulgarian border police jackets

These men had arrived in two vehicles. One was described as a black car with “border police” written on it, and the other was a green jeep with something written in Bulgarian, but the respondent was not able to see what it said as he does not speak Bulgarian. Both of these vehicles were parked on the unpaved road where he was apprehended. The respondent did not recall seeing a number plate on the car. From the descriptions of the vehicles, the respondent identified the vehicles by images shown to him. He identified the two vehicles pictured below as the same.

Image 3: Bulgarian Police Jeep 
Image 4: Bulgarian Border Police – Discovery Landrovers

One of these men in the aforementioned uniforms carried a gun described as “russian old hand gun”. It was identified to be the same pictured in Image 5, below.

Image 5: Makarov 9×18 mmGun / Soviet semi-automatic pistol: Markarov pistol– often referred to as “Russian pistol”

The apprehension took place as follows: the respondent was walking near to an unpaved road and then he heard the sound of a car coming in his direction. He tried to run away from the road he was on and hide between the trees, but the men had parked the cars and came towards him like they knew exactly where he was hiding. The men took out a dog from the trunk of the jeep and brought the dog with them. When he heard the dog barking he was afraid that they would let the dog loose on him, so instead the respondent rose up from where he was hiding with his hands raised in the air. And they caught him.

From his past experiences of crossing to Bulgaria and already encountering two pushbacks prior to this one, he knew that they would release the dog on him. The dog was identified as the same as pictured in Image 6 below – a german shepherd.

Image 6: German Shepherd

The respondent explained that he was petrified from being attacked by the dog because apparently his cousin was attacked by a dog in Bulgaria 2 months ago.

These men spoke to the respondent, shouting at him in Bulgarian. He did not understand what they were saying to him as he does not speak Bulgarian. He heard “hoo haaa haa” sounds, which sounded incredibly threatening to him.

The first man of the group was holding a gun and put the gun in his holster and immediately punched him. The respondent tried to distance himself from the man to protect himself, and kept repeating “please please” to stop the man from beating him. The man told the respondent to come toward him and grabbed his shirt to stop him from distancing himself. Another man came behind him and kicked him over his leg and threw him to the ground. They all started kicking him and the respondent continued to say “please please”. The respondent remarked they were “having fun for me begging for mercy”.

He was beaten on his body everywhere, and the respondent commented that the beatings were random. He was kicked and punched for a total of about 3 minutes. The officers did not speak to him much, they just beat him and asked him where he was from. 

“When I said I am Syrian, one of the men slapped me on the back of my head. I only asked for mercy, nothing more” explained the respondent. 

These men did not check his documents. They searched him and took his shoes, his phone, and the 40 Bulgarian Lev he had. They did not return the belongings they had stolen from the respondent. 

The respondent was forced to walk to where the vehicles were parked and he was loaded into the back of the black discovery land rover in the trunk. The trunk was about 2 x 1 metre in size and there was no seat. Then he was taken back to the border. In this vehicle, two of the men were sitting in the front. The driving was fast, and lasted for about 15 minutes. The respondent was not able to see outside because the windows were blacked out, so you were not able to see through.

The respondent was driven mostly along unpaved roads until they arrived at the border.

After arriving, the respondent was unloaded from the vehicle. It was all forest and they were on an unpaved road that led up to the fence. They had stopped infront of a small hole in the fence. The respondent believed that it had been probably cut by someone who had tried to cross prior. 

After the respondent was taken out of the car he was slapped hard by the men, and forced to sit looking around. Then he was forced to stand up and he was brought to the hole in the fence. The men kept saying “you made this hole”, but the respondent said “no” and showed them his injured hand from climbing the fence. The respondent explained that the man had pretended to see and then slapped him again and kicked him.

Both cars came to the border point, along with the same three men. They mostly conversed with the respondent in Bulgarian and a few words in English, albeit the respondent did not speak Bulgarian. The respondent was not searched again at this point.

After 20 minutes of being at this location, the men pulled the cut fence and pushed him through it. At this point, the respondent was wearing a sweater, trousers, and socks.

Throughout the pushback ordeal, the respondent was not given any food or water, the respondent was not forced to sign anything, there was no translator present to translate from Bulgarian, his fingerprints were not taken.

The respondent remarked that he experienced “a lot of beating every time I try to cross. We are human being the world might know this if there were not hard life in my country that I couldn’t live there. But they do not feel our pain”.

When he arrived on the Turkish side he rested for a bit on a tree far from the fence and then continued walking. After this, he walked for two hours and then arrived on a road that took him to Hamzabeyli. A minibus came and asked the driver politely for a lift, explaining that he did not have any money. He asked for a lift to Edirne city, and the bus driver accepted.

From here, the drive took one hour. 

Throughout the ordeal, the respondent wanted to ask for asylum but he explained that he could not.

“I asked them for mercy to not kick me more and they do kick me. Do you think I can talk about taking me to the camp or asylum? I will be dead before I even finish the word. You really don’t know how brutal they are”.