The respondent is a 30-year-old man from Morocco. On July 15, he and seven others were driven to a spot along the Bulgarian border near Hamzabeyli, Turkey by a smuggler. The group included two Syrian women, ages 21 and 35, and five men from Syria and Morocco between the ages of 24 and 45. They left around 6 am and drove for around 30 minutes, arriving at the border at around 6:30 am. At around 11 am, the group jumped over the barbed-wire fence and the smuggler went back.
After crossing into Bulgaria, they walked for one day, or around 20 kilometres, until they were apprehended by a Bulgarian officer in a forest near Lesovo at around 12 pm. He was wearing a sage green shirt and pants with a black jacket and was carrying a gun. The jacket had something that looked like an eagle on it and had “police” written on it in English. The officer called for reinforcements and after about 10 minutes three more officers arrived. While they were waiting the officer asked the group in English where they were from.
The other officers were driving a green Toyota and were dressed the same as the first officer, except for one who was wearing a sage green uniform but not a black jacket. They searched the group and took their belongings, including their phones and clothing, but later returned everything but the phones. After around 30 minutes, a green Mitsubishi arrived with two additional officers, who were wearing sage green uniforms with “border police” written on their backs. They told the group to get in the back of the car—it was about two by one meters and didn’t have any seats.
The group was driven about an hour along unpaved roads. The respondent said “[The driving was] reckless and too fast and we kept colliding and hitting each other’s heads.” They were taken to another spot along the fence, where four more officers were waiting. These officers were also wearing sage green uniforms with “border police” written on their backs and Bulgarian flags on their arms. They spoke Bulgarian with each other and English to the group.
The respondent recalled:
“[The spot] had forests on both sides and a road next to the barbed-wire fence, where there is a door like a garage door—they pushed it up and it opened and then they told us to go to Turkey. After we crossed through the fence back to Turkey, one officer called me and showed me the way and told me, ‘To make it easy, cross the middle of the forest. It will be easy for you.’..We walked for one hour through the forest to get to a city and then we asked someone to call us a taxi. It took us 35 minutes to get to Edirne—around 50 kilometers.”
The city they arrived in was called Küçünlü.