It was the second pushback from Bulgaria to Turkey he experienced.
The respondent is a 17-year-old male Moroccan minor. He tried to cross the border alone.
He started his journey on February 9, 2022 at around 3 pm from Edirne by taking a bus to Demirköy and then continued walking by foot on unpaved forest roads until he arrived at the border fence in the forest near to Hamzabeyli at around 5 pm. Once there, he waited for approximately one hour to observe his surroundings. He didn’t witness anything which triggered his suspicions, only cameras planted on the 5 meter high border fence which was barbed on the Turkish side.
The respondent crossed the border at around 6 pm by jumping over the fence through which his hand got injured. He spent two days walking in the Bulgarian territory trying to reach Yambol to get a bus ticket to continue his journey to Sofia and further towards Europe subsequently. He walked at night and rested during the days.
On February 11, 2022 at around 9 pm he was apprehended when he was waiting on agricultural fields at a river site close to Yambol. He waited for the sun to rise in order to change his clothes and to buy a ticket in the village to continue his journey.
He was caught by 4 men wearing “forest green uniforms” with “border police” writings on their backs and insignias on the arm, identified as Bulgarian border police uniforms as depicted below.
The men arrived in two black discovery landrover cars with “border police” written on the front and a logo on the side (see images below). Two of the uniformed men were holding plastic batons and carried weapons in the holders.
They apprehended the respondent while he was sitting at the side of the river. He suddenly saw a light above him and tried to hide but without success – the uniformed men stood on a hill up the river and pointed a flash light on him, screaming “Come, come!”. The scared respondent approached them and recounts that “once I got to them, one man kicked me on my back and the other slapped me on my face”.
They spoke to him in English asking questions about his age, nationality and about other possible group members. He replied truthfully.
After that the uniformed men started to kick and slap the respondent, forcing him to kneel down while they searched his personal belongings and his backpack. One of the men kicked him directly in the chest, then telling him to stand up in order to continue hitting him with a plastic baton.
Subsequently, the respondent was forced to undress to his underwear and was searched. He had to stay naked in the cold for five minutes. They stole his personal belongings, including phone, money, backpack with food and clean clothes and shoes. They only returned the clothes he was wearing, except for his shoes. This procedure lasted for about 30 minutes.
Then, a forest green jeep with a white stripe on its side, identified as Bulgarian police jeep as depicted below, arrived.
Two more men wearing the same uniform, identified as Bulgarian Border police, were in that car. The respondent was loaded in the 3 x 2 meter sized trunk and driven in a fast and reckless way for about one hour, mainly on paved roads, until they arrived at the border. He recounted: “The driver saw me shaking and unbalanced in the back and he laughed about it”.
The car stopped close to an unpaved road at the border fence within a forest. Only the Bulgarian police jeep arrived at the border site. The respondent was taken from the trunk and forced to kneel down. He was searched again without having his clothes removed this time. He was kicked and slapped and forced to walk fast while being barefoot.
When the lights of a Turkish military truck, described as “new green camouflage truck”, which crossed the border site on Turkish territory appeared, one of the uniformed men pulled the respondent up and made him run into the forest to hide between the trees and stay there. He had to wait there for about 5 minutes.
He recounted: “One of the men told me: Try again to come and it will be your last day!”
After the truck had passed, one of the other uniformed men whistled and kicked the respondent and told him “Go, go!” and pushed him back to Turkish territory through a door they opened. This was on February 11th, 2022 around 11 pm.
He started to run in order to not be caught by the Turkish military.
He recounted: “I was afraid. I didn’t know where to go and it was dark. My [bare] feet hurt me a lot and I was thirsty and hungry. I could barely walk and I thought I will die in the middle of nowhere.”
After 5 hours of walking he arrived at the village of Hatipköy where the Imam of the mosque offered him some bread and showed him the road to Edirne at around 4 am of February 12, 2022. He continued walking and arrived to Edirne after 5 hours.
He didn’t have the possibility to ask for asylum: “I couldn’t speak and they don’t let you talk or say anything without asking you. I was afraid that they would kill me and no one would know I am in their country. I don’t have no rights.”
Neither water, food nor medical assistance were offered by any officials during the pushback.
They men in uniform forced the respondent violently by slapping him to unlock the security pattern of his phone and took a picture of him before taking it from him.