“He asked for asylum in both Bulgaria and Greece. Both times the answer was beatings.”

  • Date and time: December 15, 2020 00:00
  • Location: Orestiada/Karakasım
  • Coordinates: 41.506451283791, 26.597835375266
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria, Greece
  • Pushback to: Greece, Turkey
  • Demographics: 80 person(s), age: 6-33 years , from: Afghanistan, Syria, Tunisia, Somalia, DR Congo
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, dog attacks, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 7 in Bulgaria in Green army and blue police uniform, some with German flag; 9 at the Evros river in blue uniform and wearing balaclavas, several at the detention site
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 33 year old Tunisian man, crossed the border at Bosna/Nea Vyssa. From there he continued walking through Greece for two days before he crossed the border to Bulgaria. On December 12, he was walking approximately 3km outside Harmanli when he was caught by 7 or 8 officers, some in green army uniform and black boots, some in blue uniform. The officers took all his belongings from the respondent, including his phone, all his money and clothes. The respondent is certain that some of them were Germans. He knows this because he himself is fluent in German and could recall in detail what they told him, speaking in native German:

“He told me ‘Fuck your mom! You won’t get into Bulgaria! I’m German, and you won’t make it to Germany! I will return you to Greece! And I will unleash these dogs, they eat your foot’. I don’t know why. This is racism, this is fucked up.”

(A German speaking team member of Josoor translated this statement which the respondent gave on the recording in German: “He told me ‘Ich fick deine Mutter! Du kommst nicht nach Bulgarien! Ich bin Deutscher und du kannst nicht nach Deutschland! Ich bring dich zurück nach Griechenland! Und ich lasse diese Köter los, die essen deinen Fuß.’ Ich weiß nicht warum. Das ist Rassismus, das ist scheiße.”)

The respondent also recalls the German flag on the officers’ shoulders and describes a blue armband but cannot remember the word Frontex or the EU flag.

After the officers had stolen all his belongings, they forced the respondent into the river (Maritsa/Evros/Meriç) which is still far from the border at this spot. When he was getting out of the river, the officers ordered the dog to attack him. He was bitten several times and injured on his legs. 

After that, they pushed the respondent back to Greece. The respondent found himself in the mountains on the Greek side in the middle of nowhere, it was raining. He continued walking on Greek territory for another two days but then he could not walk anymore due to exhaustion and his injuries and gave up. He decided to surrender himself to Greek police. He found some officers in a village he cannot remember, told them he wanted to apply for asylum and that he was injured and needed help.

The respondent believes the Greek officers felt pity for him as they did not hit him. However, they did not process his asylum request either and instead took him directly to a detention site in Orestiada.

At the detention site, about 50 other people were already detained. There were about 7 women and several children. Many different nationalities were gathered there, the respondent specifically remembers Afghans, Syrians, Tunisians and people from different African countries. The age range was from about 6 years to 33.

The respondent recalls his shock at seeing the officers beat everyone, including the women and small children. He describes:

“There was an 8 year old boy who got punched in his eyes. A  blue circle formed around his eyes. He had broken teeth. We were hit too much with the baton.”  

The respondent and the others were kept at the detention site for 3 days without food, water, a place to sleep or access to toilets. 

Then, a truck arrived and the whole group was ordered to enter it. It was extremely crowded, the respondent describes how much trouble he had breathing while in the truck. The drive was about 30 min long.

At the river, 9 or 10 officers in blue uniform wearing balaclavas were present. Another group of around 30 people were brought from another detention site so at this point, a total of around 80 people was gathered at the Evros/Meriç river.

One inflatable dinghy had been prepared already when the respondents’ group arrived. Four Syrians were working with the Greek officers to help with the pushback, driving the boat. They took the respondent and the rest of the group to the middle of the river and ordered them to jump into the water.

The place of pushback from Greece to Turkey was behind Karakasım.

“It took me two days to walk the 25km to Edirne because I was injured”. 

The respondent asked for asylum in both Bulgaria and Greece. Both times the answer was beatings.