The respondent, a 24-year-old woman from Morocco, already experienced one pushback from Greece to Turkey and the most recent one from Bulgaria to Turkey.
She started her journey on the 3rd of May in Istanbul, where she took a minivan at 10 pm organized by a smuggler to get to the Bulgarian border. The drive took 4 hours on a paved road and stopped after Hamzabeyli, after which they shortly drove on unpaved roads. After parking the van, the group had to walk for 3 hours to get to the final crossing point, which they reached at 5 am on the 4th of May.
The crossing point was surrounded by forest, the border itself fenced, on the Bulgarian side an unpaved road and forest again. The fence was 5 meters high and barbed from top to bottom with barbed wire.
The respondent’s group consisted of 20 people from Syria, Morocco, and Algeria, all between 20 and 35 years. Besides the female respondent herself, there was one other woman from Syria among the group. After arriving at the crossing point they waited 30 minutes at the border watching and checking for patrolling cars in the area. Then, the smuggler cut with a bolt cutter a small hole in the fence through which 10 out of the group, including himself, crawled to Bulgarian territory. The ten people who crossed were between 22 and 30 years old, from Syria, Algeria and Morocco.
While crossing, the respondent’s bag got stuck in the wire. While pulling the bag she saw a car fastly approaching in their direction. Her boyfriend’s backpack also got stuck in the fence, it took him a few seconds to pull it and they started running to hide in the forest nearby. “We stopped looking back for the other friend, [we didn’t see] that they didn’t cross.”
The car was parked near the hole. They let a dog outside the car’s trunk, opened a door in the fence and let the dog search on the Turkish territory. The car was a black discovery pickup, with a blue logo on the side of the car. The respondent recognized the car to look similar to the car in the picture below:
2 male men, dressed in green sacramento jackets and pants with “border police” written on their backs were in the vehicle. They were armed with a black plastic baton and a gun in their holster. The respondent identified the uniforms to look similar to the following picture:
(image 2: Bulgarian border police jackets)
The dog who was accompanying them was a black german shephard dog that looked similar to the one in the picture below:
The uniformed men were opening the door in the fence, firstly holding the dog in line but then letting it on the people. That was about 6 am.
The respondent, her boyfriend (25) and another Syrian man (30) were waiting and watching about 50 meters away from the fence. After 10 minutes they decided to run and follow the others who already were able to cross before the car arrived.
They started running in the forest to get far away from there for about 10 minutes. Then they walked for 3 hours, but did not catch the other 7 people and the smuggler, as they had been continuously running or walking ahead of them.
The respondent, her boyfriend, and the other man were using a map while walking in the forest and saw, that they were passing a village (Vŭlcha Polyana) on the right side. They were trying to avoid the village and started walking on an unpaved road in the middle of the forest.
Unpredictably, 3 uniformed men appeared in the forest and apprehended first the Syrian man and then the respondent’s boyfriend at about 10 am. These 3 men were dressed in Sacramento green jackets and pants, with a lion logo on their left arm and “border police” written on their backs. Two of them were holding a handgun and a plastic baton. The respondent guessed them to be middle-aged (around 40), one was bald, one white/gray hair, and one younger tall man with brown hair. She recognized the uniform to look similar to the following one:
(Image 4: Bulgarian border police jackets)
These men were also driving a black discovery car, with “border police” written on the front, looking like the previous car they saw at the border.
The respondent had been walking with her boyfriend and the Syrian guy in the forest on an unpaved road when suddenly the car approached them. They started running, she and the Syrian guy in a different direction than her boyfriend.
The uniformed men got out of the car. The respondent and the Syrian man hid between small trees, her boyfriend about 20 meters away from their hiding spot. The uniformed men started walking towards them and apprehended her boyfriend first.
One officer shot his gun next to the respondent’s boyfriend, then fired one shot to the air to stop him from moving. The boyfriend raised his hand to indicate where he was hiding so they wouldn’t shoot him. Then they gathered all three of them together. The men were talking Bulgarian, and while apprehending them, they were also said a few words in English.
They asked questions several questions to the transit group: where they were coming from, where the others of the group were, how they did cross and where they wanted to go.
The boyfriend answered that they wanted to go to the camp for which he got kicked violently on his chest by one of the uniformed men.
The men in uniforms kept insulting the three by saying “kushisin ropa”, which means “son of a bitch – you want to go to Europe” (кучи син искаш да отидеш в европа) in Bulgarian.
After being apprehended, they immediately kicked the Syrian man on his shoulder and hit him with the plastic baton. The respondent tried to look away, because she was so afraid. “When they brought my boyfriend next to me, they were slapping and kicking him until he arrived and asked him to kneel down and kept kicking him”.
She was hit by the plastic baton on her knees in order to kneel down as well. The men were beaten (kicked and hit with the plastic baton) for about 10 minutes by the men in uniform, the female respondent for a few seconds.
Two of the uniformed men started forcibly searching the three of them. The other man was standing beside holding the gun in his hand. The female respondent was standing while being searched. The man touched her back, leg, and the clothes she was wearing. Another uniformed man searched her boyfriend and the Syrian man. They had to get undressed, only wearing underwear while being kicked by the man. 40 minutes they were being searched, 20 minutes they were kneeling down while the uniformed men smoked and talked to each other. One uniformed man who was talking English to the group was standing and pointing the gun the whole time, the other men who were searching them, were using their index fingers/pointing to tell them what to do. The uniformed men took the transit group’s phones, money and backpacks, as well as the jacket of the Syrian man. Nothing was returned to them. In total, they took 50 euros, 20 lev from the respondent and her boyfriend, and 150 euros from the Syrian man. The uniformed man put the phones in their pants pocket, the other stuff in the front seat of their car.
After 1 hour at around 11 am, they made the group walk to the car and loaded them in the trunk of the car. It was parked about 300 meters away from the apprehension site. The trunk was 2 by 1,5 meters in size, and there were two windows in the trunk from both sides. All three POM were forced to squeeze into the trunk, but didn’t fit well inside and kept colliding against each other. The driving was fast and reckless on unpaved roads only and the POM kept hitting their heads against the walls. On the drive to the border, they passed forest and roads but didn’t see any villages or other landmarks.
After 40 minutes of driving, they reached the pushback point at the border near the fence. There was an unpaved road between the forest and the fence on the Bulgarian territory, on the Turkish side just a forest. The same uniformed men who had apprehended the group were at the pushback site.
The group was forced to get out of the trunk by the uniformed men who pulled the POM by their hands and shirts. The POM were then asked by the unformed men to kneel down for 30 minutes. That was around midday. After this, the uniformed men again started kicking and beating the male POM for 15 minutes with their boots.
The female respondent was kneeling next to the other POM, but was not kicked. One uniformed man stood next to the female respondent, watching her so she did not move. She was wearing a jacket, shirt, pants and shoes at that point.
After 30 minutes one uniformed man opened a lock and pulled up a door in the fence to open. One uniformed man was holding the Syrian guy from his shirt and pulled him to the door, asking the other two to stand and follow the man. They accompanied them to the Turkish territory through the door, hit each one of them again with the plastic baton and told them “no Bulgaria”. That was around 12 pm.
Once in Turkey, the three of them walked for 4 hours until arriving at a lake next to a village, where a Turkish police car stopped them. The car was a blue marine coloured ford Transit with red stripes written “Jandarma” on it.
Two men, dressed in blue marine pants, blue and red jackets with “Jandarma” written on their back were in the vehicle. These Turkish uniformed men gave them water and asked them where they are from, where they were currently coming from, and whether they were aiming to get to Edirne or Istanbul, as they are 1 hour away from Edirne. The respondent answered that they were coming from Bulgaria and that they wanted to go to Edirne. The uniformed men took them in the back seat and drove them close to Edirne at around 5 pm on the 4th of May.
The Syrian man stayed with the Jandarma as he wanted to go to Istanbul, the respondent and her boyfriend were dropped at a place close to Edirne from where they walked towards the city center. They rested for 30 minutes from time to time. They continued walking from a point called “Karahali” (60 km out of Edirne) to reach the city.
The intention to ask for asylum was expressed but in response, the uniformed men beat the respondents.