He had experienced a pushback from Greece to Turkey before.
The respondent is a 22 year-old male Tunisian traveling with his 25 year-old friend, also a male Tunisian (hereinafter referred to as ‘transit group’)
The transit group started their journey on February 9, 2022 at around 11 am from Edirne by taking a bus for one hour to Kırklareli and then continuing by minibus (Turkish: ‘dolmuş’) to Dereköy, where they arrived at around 12:45 pm. Subsequently, they walked for 4 hours on unpaved roads in the forest, resting only for a few minutes in between, until they arrived at the border fence at 5 pm.
The border site was located in a forest area. The respondent recounts that they had to cross a small river first, then walked for another kilometer until they got to the border where they waited until the sun set in order to cross in the darkness.
They crossed the border fence by cutting the barbed wire, climbing on the fence and then jumping over it at around 7 pm of February 9, 2022.
From this point on the two people on the move (POM) walked for 9 days, aiming to reach the city of Burgas in order to buy a train ticket to Sofia. They mainly walked during the night on unpaved roads in the forest and rested during the day in order to not get caught.
On February 19, 2022 they went to the village Bratovo (as recognized on a map) after changing to clean clothes in order to buy some food and water which they ran out of. On their way back from the village to the forest where they had been hiding, a man started shouting at the POM and calling them. The respondent continued walking and started to hurry while his friend stopped. After that, the men which had shouted at him before approached him in a car, making phone calls. The respondent started running and the car chased him, hitting him with the side of the car eventually. He fell down, got back up and ran into a field, still followed by the car. A third man who was sitting in the fields and had heard the shouting of the two other Bulgarian men, ran to the respondent, jumped on him and held him until the remaining two arrived.
Throughout this incident the three men spoke and screamed in Bulgarian so the two POM could not understand what they told them. They were wearing “civilian clothes”, namely a black jacket, blue jeans and black shoes; a brown jacket and black jeans and the third wearing a black jacket and brown jeans. The respondent assumed that at least two of them were officials wearing civilian clothes but could not give any proof of that. The vehicle they were using and which hit the respondent was a blue Citroen car, also described as “civilian” and not further recognized.
When the respondent was caught by all three men, they immediately started slapping, punching and kicking him. They made him walk to their car where the other POM was waiting until another car arrived after approximately 10 minutes. During this period they waited at the side of a street and were seen by other people, no one intervened. One of the first two men, which the respondent alleges to be officials in civilian clothes, asked them about their nationalities and where the rest of their group was. They responded truthfully. At this point they were neither searched nor were their documents checked.
Eventually an old green jeep with writing in Bulgarian on its side, recognized as a Bulgarian police jeep by the picture below, with Bulgarian license plate arrived.
With the vehicle four men wearing black jackets, pants and boots and with “police” written on the left upper chest and knee, identified as Bulgarian National Police by the picture below, arrived. They carried weapons in the holsters.
The respondent’s friend was loaded in the trunk of the car while he was put in the front seat next to the uniformed men. They kept asking him “Where is [the rest of the] group?” in English. They drove into the village and kept circling the village, driving around for about 30 minutes while repeatedly slapping the respondent and asking about “the rest of the group”. Every time he truthfully responded “no group” they would slap him and punch him in the stomach.
After that they drove from the village to a nearby forest for around 10 minutes. The driving was described as “normal” inside the village but fast outside of it.
Once they arrived in the forest, the two POM were taken from the car and searched. They were forced to undress and while one uniformed man searched their clothes, the other beat the two POM, by kicking, punching and beating them with tree branches, while they were completely naked. This violent assault lasted for about 30 minutes.
They stole the phone, money, and shoes they found and only returned clothes.
Another car, a black discovery landrover with white “border police” writing on the front and a logo on the side, recognized as Bulgarian border police vehicle by the picture below, arrived.
The car was filled with 4 men wearing Sacramento green jackets, sage green pants and black boots with “border police” written on the backs and on the sides of the sleeves, identified as Bulgarian border police uniforms as depicted below. Among themselves and to the other men wearing Bulgarian national police uniforms, they spoke Bulgarian.
The respondent and his friend were loaded in the 2 x 2 meter sized trunk of the black landrover. They drove for about 1.5 hours in a reckless way: “We couldn’t stand and we heard them laughing in the front seats”. The first hour they drove on paved roads while the last 30 minutes was on unpaved roads.
They arrived at the point of pushback, close to the border fence within a forest. The respondent described that there was an unpaved road leading from Bulgarian to Turkish territory, which he assumed to be used to control the area.
At the border 5 more uniformed men, 3 of them wearing the same Sacramento green uniform identified as Bulgarian border police uniform and 2 of them wearing black uniforms.
The black uniforms had “POLICE” written in capital letters and English language on their backs. One of them wore a blue armband while the other one wore a red armband. The respondent recognized the blue armband as resembling Frontex uniforms by the picture below. Both of them wore balaclavas and carried weapons in their holsters while holding plastic batons and tree branches.
The men in uniforms identified as possibly Frontex spoke English among themselves and the men wearing the blue armband subsequently spoke Bulgarian to the remaining men wearing Sacramento green Bulgarian border police uniforms.
The two POM were beaten up for 10 minutes with plastic batons, tree branches and by being punched in the face and kicked in the stomach. The respondent recounts that they specifically punched them in the face and the stomach. Almost all of the 9 uniformed men participated in the violent assault.
Subsequently, they were forced to lay down and to raise their feet. They were hit by the uniformed men with branches on their feet for 2 minutes before they were pushed back to Turkey through a big door in the fence. This was at about 10 am of February 19 2022.
Foot with injuries from violent assault
In Turkey the two men walked on unpaved roads through the forest until they found a street sign indicating their location as being close to Şükrüpaşa. Following street signs, they walked back barefoot for almost 10 hours until they arrived in Edirne.
They did not express their intention to ask for asylum because, as the respondent stated, “We couldn’t. They didn’t let us talk if they don’t ask you.”
Neither medical assistance nor food or water was provided, nor were any papers signed or pictures taken during the whole pushback incident.