On December 18th at around 6 pm, he and a friend went to a spot near Kapıkule, Turkey, to try to cross the border in a truck. After several hours, his friend gave up and went back to Edirne. Despite the freezing temperatures, the respondent decided to stay and walked for around an hour until he hopped the border fence at around 2 am. He planned to walk all the way to the Harmanli camp, despite only having one pack of bread, one packet of cheese, and one bottle of water.
After crossing the fence, the respondent began to run, aware that there were “cameras planted everywhere.” He recalled, “I started running; I couldn’t check the map on my phone because I was still near the border and I was afraid they would see the light of the phone and catch me.” He ran on and off for around 13 kilometers until 7:25 am when he arrived at a road and stopped to check the map on his phone, hiding in the trees while he did so. He realized he was close to Raykova mogila, and decided to keep walking.
After approximately 30 minutes, the respondent spotted three police cars patrolling the area near the village of Mustrak. The cars were white and blue Opel Astras with numbers written on the front of them, though the respondent couldn’t see them all and only remembered seeing “032”. He identified the cars as the same as in the following image.
Attempting to hide from the police, the respondent lay on the ground. He said:
“They stopped for ten minutes—I couldn’t move. And then I saw a black car driving to where I was hiding; two of the police cars also turned towards me and started approaching me. While they were getting close, I was unsure whether to run, keep hiding or give up.”
The cars stopped and 11 officers got out and began walking towards the respondent, who remained in hiding.
The respondent recounted what happened next:
“One of the officers saw me and immediately started kicking me to make me stand up. And he choked me, asking me ‘Where are you from? Where are you from?’ And I said, ‘Morocco.’ And he replied saying ‘Fuck you and fuck Morocco’, and then he pulled me by the shirt and told me to stand up…I stood up and he slapped me so I thought I was wrong and that ‘stand up’ meant ‘sit down’, but he kept doing this three more times and then he kicked me [on my chest] and told me, “Phone, money.”
Nine of the officers were standing around the respondent, while the other two had remained on the road near the cars. They were wearing two different uniforms; some were in a blue jacket and pants and carried a gun in a holster and the others had on sacramento green jackets and pants with “border police” written on the back. The respondent recognized the uniforms from the following pictures.
One of the officers told the respondent to take off his sneakers and jacket and then proceeded to search him. He said they didn’t force him to undress “this time”, explaining that he had already been pushed back seven other times from Bulgaria in the two previous months. Before that, he had also been pushed back from Greece several times but had stopped trying to cross there, after almost drowning while being pushed back on his last attempt.
Then, he recalled:
“They took my shoes and my jacket and my phone and my backpack. One of the officers made me walk in front of him and he kept kicking me and slapping me until I arrived at the car. I was standing near the door and he started talking and opened the back passenger door for me like he was telling me to get in. I tried to get in but he threw me down on the ground and closed the door and kept screaming and kicking me to make me stand up and then he opened the trunk of the car and put me inside.” When asked if the officers returned anything they had taken from him, the respondent replied,” They never give you back what they take.”
The car he was put into was the black car, which the respondent said was a Landrover with “border police” written on the front. He identified it from the picture below.
The trunk measured around two by one meter and had dark tinted windows which prevented the respondent from seeing outside. They drove for around 20 minutes along a dirt road; the driving was “fast and really dangerous” as the road was slippery and the car kept sliding when the driver made turns. When they arrived at the fence, the respondent was taken out of the trunk and made to sit on the ground. Three officers had come in the Land Rover with the respondent, all of whom were wearing the sacramento green uniforms. The other officers and cars had not gone with them.
The respondent said:
“While they were opening the door one of the officers came and spit on me and kicked my shoulders.”
He said that the officer did it “just for fun” and added that the officers thought they were “right” to kick him since they considered him a criminal and not an asylum seeker.
The door opened by the officers was not a proper door, instead, it was more like a small garage door that they pulled down to reveal a half-meter hole in the fence. Once it was open, the officers forced the respondent to crawl through it and one of them hit him repeatedly on the back with a plastic baton to make him go faster.
The respondent estimated that they spent around 15 minutes at the pushback site before he was forced to go through the fence and guessed that this occurred around 10 am at the latest. Once in Turkey, he recognized the area and realized he was near the village he had left from the previous day, Budakdoğanca. He walked by the village, where an old man gave him a jacket, socks, and shoes to wear on his walk back to Edirne.
When asked if he had asked for asylum while in Bulgaria, he responded,
“I couldn’t [ask for asylum]. They don’t give you the right to talk, only when they ask you to talk.”