“When the respondent asked for asylum, the Bulgarian officer just responded, "No camp. Camp closed. No more Arab. Go Syria"”

  • Date and time: January 12, 2022 17:30
  • Location: Prisadets (BG) to Hüseyinpınar (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.8948138, 26.5358721
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 5 person(s), age: 15-50 years old , from: Syria
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 5 men dressed in blue Bulgarian police uniforms & 3 men in Bulgarian sacramento green border police uniforms. 1 green border police jeep and 1 black border police Landrover. Bulgarian, Turkish, and English spoken
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

On the 12th of January 2022, the 25-year-old respondent and four other males aged 15 to 50 years old were pushed back from Prisadets, Bulgaria to Hüseyinpınar, Turkey. This was the respondent’s fifth pushback from Bulgaria. All five people on the move in the transit group were Syrian.

Two days prior, the group traveled to the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Under the guidance of a hired smuggler, the transit group reached Bulgaria at around 20:30 on the 9th of January. The group walked for more than two days with nearly no rest – covering around 60 km. Running low on water and food, they took a half day’s pause in a forest near the town of Planinovo. At approximately 15:00 on the 12th, the men were startled when a man dressed in a blue, Bulgarian police officer uniform began yelling at them (see Image 1). With a gun pointed at the men, the officer began screaming. “[He] threatened us with [an] old russian gun and screamed at us in Bulgarian…from his facial expression, we understood that he meant [for us] not to move,” described the respondent. The weapon was later identified as a Walther Model PP (see Image 2). Another two men dressed in the same officer uniform joined them. Moments later, a green jeep carrying two additional officers arrived (see Image 3). Each of the male officers was dressed in the same blue Bulgarian police uniform. The five people in the transit group were told to turn over their jackets, shoes, phones, and money. Nothing was returned. In total, approximately 500 euros were confiscated. One by one, the officers began searching and questioning the men, using a combination of broken English and Turkish when addressing the transit group. At this point, the respondent asked for asylum. One of the officers just responded, “No camp. Camp closed. No more Arab. Go Syria.” Beatings soon followed. 

Image 1: Blue Bulgarian Police Uniforms
Image 2: Walther Model
Image 3: Green Bulgarian Border Police Jeep

The three men dressed in Bulgarian police officer uniforms, who had arrived in the jeep, aggressively beat the men – pairing blows of the fists with kicks. The respondent reported that the beatings were “random…they just kicked [us] anywhere. The boots they wore [were] hard like rocks; when they kick you [it’s] like they hit you with metal.” No one – not even the minor, was spared from the officers’ brutality. The violence lasted for approximately ten minutes. 

Nearing 16:00, the group was joined by a black discovery Landrover (see Image 4). Three additional men, wearing Sacramento green Bulgarian border police uniforms emerged from the car and forcibly loaded the POM into the landover (see Image 5). As they climbed in, the respondent reportedly asked one of the men, identified as an “officer”, dressed in green, that they be taken to a camp. The officer only responded: “Yes, no problem….car Sofia”. Having been transported in this car during a previous pushback, the respondent knew the officer was lying. With all five people loaded into the 2 by 1-meter trunk, the car drove towards the Turkish border. Outside the car, the respondent could see another small town for around 5 km before they entered into a forest. The driving was reportedly fast and reckless. Reflecting on the incident, the respondent noted:

“You know the feeling of being locked like sheep….you [lose] your dignity. All that you wanted [was] to stay [a]live…running from war. Then, you find yourself humiliated; you become a toy. No one wants you in [their] country. We understand that we are nothing in their eyes.”

The car came to a stop around 16:45. 

Image 4: Bulgarian Border Police – Discovery Landrover
Image 5: Sacramento green Bulgarian Border Police uniforms 

Pulling at their shirts, the officers forced each person out of the trunk. Around them, the respondent could see only a forest in his direct surroundings. A bit farther off, he could see large wind turbines. He was then forced to kneel in a line with the others and fix his eyes fixed on the ground. Screaming at the men in Bulgarian, the transit group endured another round of violent verbal taunting and physical brutality. Concentrating their blows to the backs and shoulders, the officer repeatedly kicked the four men and the minor. Powerless and physically bruised, the transit group was then forced back across the Turkish border. The three officers reportedly used a door embedded into the Bulgarian-Turkish border fence. The respondent described the door as measuring around  1 by .5 meter in size with a handle that pulled down from the top to open. The 5 people were pushed through the door, where they immediately hit a slide that dropped them into the Evros/Meriç River. Wading through the frigid water – reaching around one meter in depth – all five eventually made it back onto Turkish soil. Walking for around one hour along an unpaved, mountainous road, they soon reached Hüseyinpınar where they contacted a taxi to drive them the rest of the way to Edirne. 

At no point during his captivity was the respondent offered food, water, or medical support. No photos were taken nor fingerprints taken.