“The officer pointed the gun at me”

  • Date and time: May 12, 2021 15:00
  • Location: Malko Tarnovo/İncesırt
  • Coordinates: 41.9797938, 27.5250475
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 2 person(s), age: 25, 41 , from: Tunisia
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 3 Bulgarian police officers in sage green shirts, pants & caps; green Ford car with “Police” written on it, in English & Bulgarian; 1 Bulgarian officer in light green pants & a grey shirt with Bulgarian flag & stars on arm an, 3 German speaking officers in civilian clothes, 1 Bulgarian officer in a black uniform; Female French translator in civilian clothes; 2 officers in sage green uniforms with the Bulgarian flag on arms; green 4WD (Ford); 3 officers in sage green uniform; black Hilux Toyota with “border police” written on it; 2 officers in civilian clothes; Renault car.
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: personal belongings taken, interrogation
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

This report contains two testimonies of people from the same transit group, pushed back at slightly different points on the same day.

The respondent is a 41-year-old Tunisian man who traveled with four other Tunisian men, aged between 23 and 41. On the 4th of May, they took a taxi from Edirne to Kırklareli. They then walked about 45 kilometres. The day after, in the afternoon, they crossed the Bulgarian – Turkish border

Once in Bulgaria, they walked around 150 kilometres over the course of 7 days, through mountains, forests, and agricultural fields. When they eventually ended up at the entrance of the city of Burgas, it was around 7 AM and they split into 2 groups. The respondent and one of the men would go to the bus station to get five bus tickets to Sofia, while the three other men would stay at the entrance of the city and join them one hour afterward.

Before they got to the bus station, the respondent and his friend were apprehended by three Bulgarian police officers wearing sage green shirts, pants, and caps. They drove a green Ford car with “Police” written on it in English and Bulgarian.

“They had stars on their shoulders, and the Bulgarian flag on their arms. They had guns and talkie walkie”, recalled the respondent. The officers asked them in English to show their passport and where they were going. “We told them that we left our passport in Sofia and that we are just here as tourists and we only want to go back to Sofia. They let us go to the station but they were following us”.

The respondent bought the tickets for a bus going to Sofia, scheduled at 10 AM. They then waited at the bus station. After 30 minutes, the three same officers apprehended them and took them in their car to a police station which was around 5 kilometres away from the bus station, a little far from downtown.  

The respondent and his friend waited about 30 minutes at the entrance of the station. The respondent described the station as a “proper police station” where there were more than 20 police officers, some wearing civilian clothes, some in green uniforms or in black uniforms. When he entered the police station, the respondent recalled that there were also six German-speaking officers (two women and four men) in the yard of the station. They were all dressed in civilian clothes – jeans and pullovers – and had a badge with pictures of their face and the EU flag. Some of them were “holding a book and a pen, and watching about 15 Bulgarian officers training in the yard”.

A Bulgarian officer wearing light green pants and a grey shirt with the Bulgarian flag on the arm and “a lot of stars on his shoulders” took the respondent and his friend to an office room which was 3 metres by 4 and had some windows. The respondent recalled that there was a table, a computer, and some chairs.

“He took everything out from our pocket (money, phone), our belts and our shoes; then gave us everything back and asked us to sit on a chair”. 

Then entered a female French translator wearing civilian clothes, three persons (one woman and two men) who spoke German and that the respondent described as German officers; and one Bulgarian officer wearing a black uniform who had the task to take note of the conversations. First, one of the German officers asked some questions in German to the friend of the respondent who said that he could understand a bit of German. But since the conversation was not fluent, the French translator took over. “One of the German officers talked to the French translator in German and she was translating the questions to us”, explained the respondent. 

The respondent was asked to give his full personal details (name, date of birth, exact address in Tunisia, family status, etc.). “I showed my address to her on the map of her phone,” specified the respondent.

The respondent had also to explain how they traveled from Tunisia to Bulgaria and if they crossed from Turkey. The respondent explained that they crossed the sea from Tunisia to Italy; then made their way to France, before getting to Romania, from where they went through the Danube to reach Bulgaria.

“The translator asked us why we came to Sofia. I said that we came to find a job and to do some tourism. She told us that we could go, that we just had to sign a paper and go back to Sofia. They say they will change the time on the bus ticket to 12 o’clock because it was already late for our bus.”

But then two other officers wearing sage green uniforms with the Bulgarian flag on their arm came into the room. They were the ones who apprehended the three other friends of the respondent (whose testimony can be found on the BVMN database titled: “They beat me on my head, my back and my shoulder with the metal stick”).

“One of the officers said that my friend and I were lying, that we came with three other men, that he found pictures of our group in the phone of our friends. He showed the pictures. They all understood that we lied. The French translator and the German officers got angry, they took the paper from the officer who was taking note and tore it”, related the respondent.

All the officers and translator left the room, except the two officers in sage green uniforms who brought the phone. They searched the respondent and his friend again. They took all their belongings and this time never gave them back to them. The respondent and his friend were taken in the trunk of a green 4-wheel drive. It was a Ford car, which was about 1 by 1 metre and had no seats. 

After a 30 kilometres drive, the car stopped and parked somewhere on the side of the road, with the closest location identified at Malko Tarnovo. There was a black Hilux Toyota with “Border police” written on it waiting. In the car, there were three officers in sage green uniform and the three other friends of the respondent. There was also a Renault car with two officers in civilian clothes. The respondent and his friend were taken in the black Hilux Toyota and were driven for about 50 kilometres on an unpaved road until they got to the fence.

The officers crossed the fence by going via a door big enough to let the car through. The group was driven for about 3 kilometres on the Turkish territory before stopping. “I was about to get out first but the officers didn’t let me go out”. The officers took out the three friends who were not apprehended at the same time as the respondent and started to beat them with a metal stick and a black with plastic batons to force them to run fast. “They kept saying ‘no Bulgaria’”, told the respondent.

Then the officers drove back through the fence with the respondent and his friend still on board. They were driven for about 10 to 15 kilometres along the fence before being taken out of the car. One officer held a gun and the other one had a metal baton. “They beat us for 10 minutes, randomly and everywhere. I said that it hurts but they kept beating and saying bad words in Bulgarian. I could only understand ‘fuck you.’ The officer with the gun threatened me. He pointed the gun at me.”

The respondent and his friend were taken in the car again, and driven for another 10 kilometres along the fence. The officers opened a door in the fence and drove about three kilometres. “They took us out of the trunk, and beat us with the metal stick to make us run fast”. The pushback happened on the 12th of May, around 3 PM. 

The respondent and his friend walked for two hours through the mountains before finding a road and a small village which was identified as İncesırt. Near the village, they found an old man who agreed to drive them to Edirne in exchange for money. On their way back they met their three other friends who got in the car. They all arrived in Edirne in the evening.

Testimony 2:

The respondent is a 23-year-old Tunisian man who was traveling with four other Tunisian men, aged between 23 and 41. On the 4th of May, they took a taxi from Edirne to Kırklareli, from where they walked about 45 kilometres. The day after, in the afternoon, they reached the Bulgarian – Turkish border and climbed over the fence.

Once in  Bulgaria, the group walked for around seven days in the direction of Burgas. When they reached the outskirts of the city, the men split into two groups. Two of them walked to a bus station to get five bus tickets to Sofia, while the respondent and two of his friends waited one hour before walking to the bus station.

While walking, the respondent and his two friends were apprehended by four Bulgarian police officers wearing grey pants and light green shirts with the Bulgarian and EU flag on their arms and “Police” written in English on their chest. They were driving a black Passat with no sign to show that it was a police car.

When they were apprehended, the respondent took his phone and tried to delete some pictures from the group. “But one of the officers kicked the phone with his foot, so it fell on the ground. He took my phone and looked at it. Then he asked in English ‘how many people are you?’. I kept saying that we were three and they started hitting and kicking us. We were on the side of the road, near some trees. They were people driving their car who saw us but they didn’t do anything”.

After beating them for five minutes, the officers took their money (about 100 Turkish lira and 50 euros), their phones, chargers, and power banks and made them kneel on the side of the road for about 30 minutes.

Two officers came in a black Hilux pick-up, on which was written “Border police” in English. The officers were wearing sage green shirts, pants, and caps, and had the Bulgarian flag on their arms, this description matching with the Bulgarian border police uniform. When they arrived, they beat the three men and took them in the trunk of the car, which was one meter by one. “They loaded us like we were sheep,” said the respondent.  

After a 20 minutes drive through the city, the three men were taken to a “big police station”. The respondent recalled seeing a sign “Police” on the building. This station was later identified as the “Fifth police station” (Пето РПУ), located in the district of Lazur in Burgas. Inside, there were more than 20 police officers, some wearing civilians’ clothes, some wearing green shirts and grey pants, some wearing sage green uniforms.

Two officers wearing sage green uniforms took the three men to a yard in the entrance of the building where they frisked them. “They didn’t find anything on us, but they took our shoestrings and our jackets.” The officers took them in a green car with “Border police” written on it. When they were about to leave the police station, the respondent saw a black car coming with his two other friends (who went to the bus station to get the tickets to go to Sofia) sitting at the back of the car.

The respondent and his two friends were driven very fast and recklessly for about 30 minutes on paved roads. Then the car stopped on the side of a road, where a black Hilux pick-up with “Border police” written on it was waiting. There were two officers wearing sage green uniforms that said “Border police” and had the Bulgarian flag on them. “They slapped and punched us, then they kicked us to load us in the car,” related the respondent.

After about an hour and a half of driving, the officers made a U-turn and drove in the direction where they came from. “I assume that the officers got a call,” explained the respondent. The car stopped again at the outskirts of the city, on the side of an unpaved road. There were three officers wearing sage green uniforms and caps, black belts, black boots, and a black scarf covering their face up to their noses. The respondent said that those officers looked like “soldiers”. They were driving a black Hilux car with “Border police” written on it and one officer wearing civilian clothes, driving one Navy-blue Clio car.

The officer wearing civilian clothes got an Arabic translator on the phone to talk with the respondent. This translator was later recognized as speaking the Syrian-Arabic dialect.

“He asked me where I come from. I told him that I was Libyan. He asked me where I crossed the border and where we were going. I told him that we walked for several days, that we came from Edirne”. 

Once the officer wearing civilian clothes and the two officers who drove them to this point had left, the three officers who were driving the Hilux car asked the respondent what’s their nationality.

“We said we come from Libya and they started beating us. They kept laughing at us. They talked in Bulgarian and they kept saying “Malakas” [a Greek insult which means “wanker”].”

They hit them with a metal stick “randomly” for about 10 minutes.

The three officers loaded the three men in the trunk of the Hilux car. They drove for about one hour on paved and unpaved roads. “It was fast and reckless”, said the respondent. They stopped again somewhere on the side of an unpaved road near a forest. There was a green car waiting. In the car were two officers wearing green sage uniforms with the Bulgarian flag on the arm and the two other friends of the respondent who recounted their apprehension in the testimony above. Those were then taken in the car of the respondent, so that the five men were in the same car, with three officers.

The group was driven for about 30 minutes on a paved road, first, then on a “mountain road” surrounded by forests until they reached the fence at the border, in the area of Malko Tarnovo. Then, the officers opened a big metal door which was about six meters high in the fence and drove through it with the car. Once in Turkey, the officers kept driving for about 10 minutes. They took the three of us who said that we were Libyan out of the car, they beat me on my head, my back, and my shoulder with the metal stick.” Then the officers left the three men and drove back with the two other men to Bulgaria. 

The pushback happened on the 12th of May, around 2 PM. The respondent and his friends walked about six kilometres before reaching the village of Armutveren. They couldn’t find any help in the village, so they kept walking and stopped a car. That was an old man and his family. “He said that he will take his family home, come back and drive us to Edirne in exchange for money.” When the old man came back half an hour later, the two other friends of the respondent were on board. The man had found them on his way. Our friends were beaten so hard that they couldn’t walk. One of them could barely stand on his feet,” said the respondent. The three men arrived in Edirne in the evening.