The respondent, a 25-year-old Moroccan man, was pushed back from Bulgaria to Turkey at 4:00 a.m. on March 15th, 2022. He was travelling with a 24-year-old man from Morocco. The respondent has been pushed back to Turkey from Bulgaria or Greece over 14 times.
At approximately 22:00 the day before the pushback occurred, the two men crossed into Bulgaria. They walked for around four hours and covered about 16 kilometers of distance through agricultural fields and then along a stretch of paved road near Sharkovo. The respondent reported that at around 3:00 a.m., they saw headlights approaching them and attempted to run.
According to the respondent, while one car continued behind them, another vehicle sped up and over took the respondent, positioning themselves in front of the transit group. The men were trapped between both vehicles and unable to move, described the respondent. Out of the vehicles emerged seven men dressed in sacramento green uniforms that, according to the respondent, resembled the Bulgarian Border Police uniforms. When asked to describe the vehicles driven by the uniformed men, the respondent compared them to the Bulgarian police cars.
One of the uniformed men reportedly pointed a firearm at the transit group once they had been stopped in between the two vehicles. According to the respondent the only word spoken to the transit group in English was “stop”, otherwise the uniformed men were only speaking to the in Bulgarian.
The seven uniformed men then began kicking and slapping the respondent and his friend, and then forced them to undress and searched them, depicted the respondent. Both men reportedly had 50 euros taken from them. The respondent recalled how any time a uniformed man instructed them to do something, it was followed by a slap. Naked, the men stood in front of the two cars, forcibly subjected to their humiliation and abuse. When one of the officers returned the respondent’s sneakers, he reportedly slapped the respondent in the face with them before handing them back.
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”.
At this stage it was approximately 3:00 a.m.
According to the respondent, he was loaded into one of the vehicle’s trunks while his friend was put in the trunk of the other vehicle. 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 respondent and his friend were unloaded from the back of the cars. Arriving at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, the respondent reported seeing a few lights among a large forest and the glow from a small Turkish village on the other side; he also saw a wind turbine in the distance over the border.
The respondent reported that three more men in uniform arrived at the scene; they wore plain black uniforms with the word “Police” written across their backs. According to the respondent the uniforms were similar to that of Frontex, only without the blue arms band (see Image 1). A black unmarked van that the three men had reportedly arrived in was parked next to them. As they stood next to the Turkish border, the men in black uniforms reportedly took photos of the transit group. According to the respondent, the photos were taken with the men’s personal phones. He also recalled that the men in black uniforms only spoke in English.
According to the respondent, the officers resembling Frontex staff proceeded to questioned the two Moroccan men about their crossing point, whether anyone else crossed had with them, and where they had been apprehended earlier that day. The men in black reportedly carried weapons, though the respondent could not confirm the make.
Image 1: Frontex Uniforms – the respondent stated that the uniforms worn by three men resembled these, just without the blue armband.
When the questioning was over, the responded recalled that the men dressed in sacramento green uniforms began kicking and beating the respondent and his friend with wooden batons. The men dressed in black uniforms over saw the beating of the two men.
As the beatings came to an end, one of the men dressed in the sacramento green uniform reportedly put a gun to the respondent’s friend’s cheek and said: “Scared of death? Try one more time in Bulgaria.”
At about 4:00 a.m., the respondent and his friend were pushed back through a two-meter high white door in the border fence over onto Turkish side as the officers forced them on with plastic and wooden batons, described the respondent.
According to the respondent, the group walked in the dark of night to the town of Malkoçlar and then continued to Lalapasa, stopping from time to time to take short breaks to rest and drink from the faucets they found along the side of the road. They eventually made it back to Edirne the following day.