At 4:00 am on March the 15th of 2022, a 25-year-old Moroccan man was pushed over the Bulgarian border to Turkey alongside his 24-year-old Moroccan travel companion. The respondent has suffered over 14 pushbacks from Bulgaria and Greece to Turkey.
One day prior, the two male people on the move (POM) traveled through Edirne to the Turkish-Bulgarian border. At approximately 22:00 the two men arrived in Bulgaria. The POM walked for around four hours (16 kilometers) through agricultural fields and then along a stretch of paved road near Sharkovo. At around 3:00, the headlights of vehicles brought their journey to a halt.
The two men began to run. While one car continued behind them, another sped up – positioning themselves in front of the POM – inevitably cutting them off. Trapped, the two men had no choice but to stop moving. Out of the vehicles emerged seven men dressed in uniforms that resemble the Bulgarian border police (see Image 1). One of the uniformed men reportedly pointed an old Russian gun at the two POM (see Image 2). With a clearer image of the cars, the respondent confirmed that the two vehicles were similar to those often driven by the Bulgarian Police police (see Image 3).
The only word spoken to the POM in English was “stop”. What followed were incomprehensible instructions in Bulgarian pointed at the two men. With the POM surrounded, the seven uniformed men began kicking and slapping the two Moroccans. The men were then strip-searched and 50 euros taken from each of them. Each time that a uniformed man delivered an order, he slapped the men. Naked, the men stood in front of the cars, forcibly subjected to their humiliation and abuse. When one man in uniform returned the respondent’s sneakers, they slapped him in the face with them before turning them over.
The time was approximately 3:00 am.
The respondent was loaded into one of the vehicle’s trunks and his companion the other. The trunk reportedly measured no larger than one-by-two meters. In the front of the vehicle sat four of the seven uniformed men. The driving was reportedly fast and unsteady. After 15 minutes, the vehicles stopped and the two POM unloaded from the back of the cars. Arriving at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, the respondent reported seeing a few lights tucked into a large forest and the glow from a small Turkish village on the other side. In the distance over the fence, he also spotted a wind turbine. All else was pitch dark.
The two POM were met by an additional three uniformed men. These three were, however, dressed in all black with the word “Police” written on the backs of their uniforms. According to the respondent the uniforms were similar to Frontex, yet without the blue arms band (see Image 4). Near them was parked a black, unmarked van that the three men had reportedly arrived in (see Image 5). Standing outside near the border, the three men in black uniforms then took the two men’s photos. According to the respondent, the photos were taken with the men’s personal phones. Whether addressing the POM or the seven men in sacramento green uniforms who also arrived at the pushback site, the three men in black only used English. The men dressed in uniforms possibly resembling Frontex questioned the two Moroccans about their crossing point, whether anyone else crossed with them,and asked the men in uniforms resembling Bulgarian Border Police uniforms, where they had caught the POM. The men in black carried weapons, though the respondent could not confirm the make.
Image 4: Frontex Uniforms – the respondent stated that the uniforms worn by three men resembled these, just without the blue armband
Image 5: Black unmarked van
When the questioning finished, the men dressed in sacramento green began kicking and beating the two POM with wooden batons. The men dressed in black uniforms looked on while the two POM were physically abused.
As the beatings came to an end, one of the men dressed in the sacramento green uniform put the gun to the respondent’s friend’s cheek and told him: “Scared of death? Try one more time in Bulgaria.” And with that, the two-meter white door embedded into the border fence was opened, and the two POM were forced with plastic and wooden batons back over the border to Turkey. The time was around 4:00 am.
Walking from the border in the dark of night, the two POM made their way to the nearest city. Around an hour later, they reached the town of Malkoçlar and four hours later Lalapasa. From time to time they took 30-minute breaks to rest, drinking water from faucets they found on the side of the road. After a long, taxing night, they eventually made it back to Edirne.
When asked whether the respondent requested asylum, he responded, “We couldn’t. The only times we were allowed to talk were when they asked us something or told us to speak. Otherwise, we would be beaten”. No food, water, or medical support was offered nor were translators provided during their pushback. No fingerprints were taken.