This testimony covers one group being caught in Bulgaria and then the group were taken to the first pushback point near Küçüköğünlü where five from the group were pushed back. The remaining three members of the group were then driven 30 minutes and pushed back near to Vaysal.
The respondent, a Syrian 21 year old man, recounted a pushback from Bulgaria to Turkey. He was travelling in a group of 8 Syrian men, including him and his father. The age range of the group was between 21 and 49.
The group left Edirne on the 5th of May, in the early afternoon and went to Hamzabeyli by taxi. Then they walked to the Bulgarian–Turkish border and crossed through a hole in the fence.
After walking about 14 kilometres, as the sun was about to rise, the group stopped in the forest, near the village of Ustrem, to take a rest. While they were sleeping, they were apprehended by a Bulgarian officer wearing a sage green uniform and black boots. The respondent stated that there was one star and a logo with a lion on the shoulder of the officer, this description matching with the Bulgarian Border Police uniform.
“He was wearing glasses; he was around 55 years old. He told us that he was looking for us for 4 hours. He showed us our foot traces on the ground, that’s how he followed us. He even said that he got injured on his arms by going through the trees when he was looking for us. We saw that he was a bit tired, so we gave him milk and water. He told us that he comes from Georgia. He had an accent which sounded Russian”,related the respondent. The officer talked to the respondent and his group mainly in English and sometimes he spoke in Bulgarian and used his phone to translate what he was saying.
The officer made the group walk for about 30 minutes. While walking, this officer was talking in a talkie walkie which had “the EU flag on the back”. When the group arrived on the road, there were two officers wearing green shirts with two stars on their shoulders, sage green pants, and black boots. They had a blue Nissan pick-up. There was also another control patrol waiting on the road in a Nissan blue car. The officer who apprehended the respondent and his group got in the car and the patrol left.
The two other officers took the 8 men in their car. They were driven “fast and recklessly” for about 30 minutes on unpaved windy roads. “There was no seat. We were crowded on the trunk, which was one metre by one,” said the respondent.
When they arrived at the border, the officers took 5 people out of the car, including the father of the respondent while the respondent was left in the car with two other people.
The officers forced the 5 men to take their clothes off, took all their belongings (phones, power banks, money), and beat them with a tree branch and a plastic stick. The officers left them in their underwear and pushed them back to Turkey. To cross the border, the 5 men had to crawl under a small unofficial door in the fence that the officers had pulled up from the bottom.
Once in Turkey, the group walked about 5 kilometres before getting to a village which was later identified as Vaysal. From there, the group called a taxi to go back to Edirne. They drove about 50 kilometres on a highway.
The three remaining men from the group were driven for 30 minutes on the same unpaved road that they took first, to get to another location next to the border. There were already three other Bulgarian officers, two wearing black uniforms with “Police” written on them, and one wearing a camouflage uniform. They had a blue Nissan car and only spoke Bulgarian. “They were there to open the door in the fence,” said the respondent.
The three men had to take their clothes off. The officers took all their belongings and left them in their underwear. Then they were pushed back by an unofficial door in the fence that the officers had to pull up from the bottom to open it.
“The officers beat us on our back. One of the officers wearing black uniform beat me with a tree branch, and the other with a black plastic stick.”
Once in Turkey, they walked through agricultural lands next to a forest. On their way, they met some Bulgarian people who were busy cutting wood, to whom they asked to call a taxi. The group had to walk another three kilometres before reaching the road where the taxi picked them up around 4 PM.
They drove for about 30 minutes before getting back to Edirne. After 2 kilometres, the respondent said that they drove by a village, which was identified as Küçüköğünlü.