The respondent, 37 and from Algeria, had experienced in total already 6 pushbacks. The most recent one was a violent chain pushback from Bulgaria to Greece to Turkey.
The respondent crossed the 4th of August 2021 from the Evros/Meric River, near to Kapikule, Turkey to Greece and then later to Bulgaria. The respondent was with a Moroccan friend and while walking on the second day before entering Bulgaria, still in Greece, they met a group of 6 Syrian men, with whom they walked together for the whole time. The group’s age range was between 28 and 37. They walked for about 80 km and for 2 nights. Once in Bulgaria, the group walked another 3 days for around 120 km or even more. Throughout the whole time the group of 8 stayed together, as they were taking the same road.
All of them were apprehended just before sunrise while being asleep, ca. 35 km away from Sofia, in the middle of a forest by 5 officers. They were dressed in civilian clothes, shirts and pants. 2 of them were wearing a black jacket which had “Polizei” (“police” translated to German) written on their uniform. The 3 others were just wearing camouflage Jackets. They didn’t wear Balaclavas and started immediately beating the respondent’s group. With each other, the officer talked Bulgarian; one officer with the black jacket was talking English to the Syrian person-on-the-move.
Two of the officers only beat the respondent and his Moroccan friend, as they thought they must be smugglers, for about 4 min until the respondent fainted. After waking up again, they started beating and kicking him again, also using a black plastic baton.
“Now, any time I sneeze or cough, blood comes out of my mouth. While they were beating us, we tried to express that we want asylum and we kept saying, we are in peace and came for asylum, but they beat us even more and said ‘Asylum get the Asylum, here it is’ and beat us more”.
The respondent was woken up by having water pulled over his face and was put in the trunk of a green car, a Helix car of the brand Ford, together with the 7 other men. The trunk was too small to accommodate all of the group, so the officers were using force to make all of them fit in the trunk. The respondent can not tell how many of the 5 officers went with them or who was driving, but later on the site, just 3 of the 5 officers were there.
After 50 min of fast and reckless driving on first and mostly paved, for the last 3 km before the pushback-point (which was unidentifiable by the respondent) to Greece on unpaved road, they arrived at the Greece – Bulgarian border. The respondent wasn’t given anything to sign by the Bulgarian authorities.
Arriving at the pushback point – a place along the green border with no there was no fence – they took the group out of the trunk and said “go and never go back”. They were forced to take off all their clothing besides their underwear and were left like that. All their belongings were taken by these 3 officers, who are the same who apprehended them at first. 2 officers of the 5 that beat the transit group didn’t come, probably because of the lack of space in the car.
The 8 men were pushed back and walked for 20 km into Greek territory. On the way, they found a plate with “Ormenio” written on it. Next to a road, a truck stopped and apprehended them a second time, now in Greece. It was a military green camouflage truck with ca. 8 – 10 officers in them. All were dressed in green military uniforms, with a logo of the Greek flag on their sleeves. These military officers kept the respondents group waiting and asked questions like “Where are you from, from where are you coming” to which the respondent answered that they are all Syrian and came from Bulgaria. One officer came to check the respondent, slapped him on his head and insulted him, “although I was already injured and naked. They kept laughing at us”.
The officers were speaking English to the group and Greek with each other. One of them was searching the area for others, the other officers just stayed watching the respondent and the other men. After waiting there for about 40 min, a white old van without a plate number of the brand Ford came with 2 officers sitting inside. They were wearing both civilian clothes and balaclavas. At about 4 pm, these two, the last-mentioned officers, pushed the group and forced all of them to get into the van’s trunk.
After reckless driving for around 2 hours on the first paved and further unpaved road, they arrived at the Evros/Meriç River. “You can’t imagine how many times we hit the side of the van when the van drifted..”. The van didn’t stop on the way, it was very hot, the respondent was injured and the air condition was so bad, that they could hardly breathe.
At the riverside, there was a white and blue Nissan with “police” written on it and 3 officers. 2 of the officers were wearing sage green shirts and pants with a Greek insignia on their sleeves, the other one was dressed in black and with Balaclavas. These 3 officers slapped the respondent and others of the group several times to hurry up. Apart from that, they kept the group hidden in order not to be seen by Turkish border control who was patrolling the area. It was nobody else but the 8 men and the officers.
After walking for 100 m, the group was forced and threatened with guns to enter the boat and drive back to Turkey. The boat was unstable so they used their hands to paddle but as the water was not deep, all of them jumped in the water and walked through the river until reaching Turkish territory. At the shore, they walked for 2 – 4 km until being close to Üyüklütatar, 24 km outside of Edirne, and continued walking for 4 hours until arriving in Edirne.
Throughout the whole pushback chain, no food, water, or medicine was provided for the injured ones had been provided. Instead the officers “kept joking, that they don’t care if I die or stay alive, all they care about is that we don’t stay in their country”.