Two testimonies were collected that refer to the same pushback incident on 10th March, where a transit group of about 55 people was pushed from Bulgaria to Greece, and then Greece to Turkey. The second testimony is to be found here.
The respondent, a 46-year-old man from Iraq, walked for one night and one day to get to Bulgaria from Turkey, crossing through Greece on the way. He was with a group of five other people that included an Algerian man, a Libyan man, and an Iraqi couple with their 2-year-old baby daughter.
The group arrived at a small village, Valche pole, where they received food and water from some people there and then hid in an abandoned house. Later, six Bulgarian police officers arrived in two cars, wearing blue uniforms with Bulgarian flags and “police” written on their shoulders and back. The respondent said, “he (one officer) punched me in my face and kept saying ‘money’. They took it all and about 100 euros and 100 Turkish lira and the rest of my papers, which were in my wallet,” including “my identity card, my money, and everything related to my Iraqi identification.” The police took all of the belongings from everyone in the group and put them in the back of the cars, kicking and hitting them along the way. The group was driven less than 30 minutes, first on a paved road and then on an unpaved road, with fast driving.
The group asked for asylum, however the respondent said the officers “didn’t let us talk too much, but we did talk about getting us to the camp, but they didn’t accept and they just took us to the border and took everything from us. Then they started screaming after they took everything from us and kept saying ‘go go go.’”
The group then walked for three days until they arrived in Mikro Dereio, where they were apprehended at night by three officers wearing uniforms that were described as “greenish-yellow”, who spoke Greek, English, and Turkish. The officers searched the group and asked if they had mobile phones but didn’t find anything. They were taken into a car and brought to a detention site where they encountered another group of five people between the ages of 22 and 25 who had also been detained, including one woman.Three more officers arrived, wearing sage green uniforms with the Greek flag on them, in a military truck. They frisked the group again, but the respondent said, “they didn’t find anything because the Bulgarians took everything from us.”
The group was brought to a detention site in the middle of a small village, where they were met by six officers wearing the same green uniforms with Greek flags on their shoulders as the ones before. These officers made the men take off their clothes and took the women to a separate room where they were searched with a metal detector. The respondent says they found money on him but that one officer gave it back to him.
From about 3 am until 4 or 5 pm the next day, the group was kept in one of two rooms that was about 4×3 meters and had a dirty floor. They had access to a toilet, but it was broken. There were more people in another cell, with a total of more than 100 people detained in the two of them. The other detained people ranged in age from 2 until about 50 years old and included people from Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco, and Afghanistan. The respondent said, “they didn’t give us anything. We were yelling to just give something to the little girl and they gave us chocolate.” There was also a handicapped man but he was not given any help.
The respondent tried to ask for asylum but said the officers “don’t want to hear you talk. They keep telling you ‘shut up shut up’ and they don’t want you to talk and they didn’t give us anything to sign.”
First, a group of about 60 people were taken away in a big military truck. Later, the respondent was put in the same truck, driven by three officers, with around 55 people. They were driven for about one hour, during which time they were constantly colliding into each other as a result of the fast driving and hard braking.
They were brought to a wooded area along the Evros/Meriç river, where they were met by ten officers armed with guns wearing green camouflage military uniforms with Greek flags on them. There was also one man in civilian clothes wearing a balaclava who spoke Arabic with an Algerian accent. He asked the group about money, saying “Euro, Euro, Euro”.
The officers repeatedly hit the people in the group with batons, kicked them, and punched them in the face. One Syrian man “couldn’t breath because the officer hit him straight to the chest.” They also took the rest of the group’s belongings, “even the shoes”.
Around 18 people at a time were loaded onto a green, military-style boat that was about 2 by 4 meters and powered by a motor. The respondent crossed in the second of three trips and said the water level was “high”.
On the other side of the river, they spent two hours walking through a forest, which was “hard to cross”, until they arrived at a small village, where people gave them food and water. A local man drove them – 3 men, one woman, and one child – about 40 kilometers, which took roughly an hour and a half, to Edirne.