The respondent is a 27-year-old man from Syria. He was traveling with 18 other Syrian people, aged between 12 and 45 years old. On the 3rd of May, in the morning, they crossed the Bulgarian – Turkish border. It is not clear from which location they began their journey.
After they had reportedly walked for around 12 hours over 50 kilometers, they arrived at a village (which the respondent does not recall the name of). The respondent recounted how they hid in the forest for three days and on the third day, the 6th of May, they ran out of food and water, so they decided to go to the police for help. He further explained how they walked to a road and tried to stop the cars to ask someone to call the police but no one stopped. Eventually, a police car, a black Range Rover, stopped. “Above the car plate in the back, there was a sticker with the EU flag,” recalled the respondent.
The respondent identified the two people wearing uniforms who got out of the car as Bulgarian: one female ‘officer’ wearing green pants and shirt with a big pale green stripe on the belly and one male ‘officer ‘wearing green pants and a green shirt with “border police” written on it in English. Reportedly, the male officer had a logo on his arm with the Bulgarian flag and a lion on it.
The respondent then described how the officers forced the whole group to walk in the forest for about 15 minutes until they stopped, and the male officers searched the men and the female officers frisked the women. “They took our money, our phones, and our power banks, but they didn’t take our bags.” The respondent said that the officers spoke to the transit group in English, but amongst themselves, they spoke Bulgarian.
The respondent and the transit group recalled asking for asylum but this right was denied to them. “They asked us ‘where do you want to go’? We said that we wanted to go to the Sofia camp. They told us ‘there is no Sofia, you will go back to Turkey.’” The officers didn’t take their fingerprints, they didn’t ask them to sign any papers, and they didn’t provide a translator to allow them to understand what was happening, the respondent explained. However, the respondent spoke a bit of English so he was able to understand some parts.
Following the search, three brown Nissan cars arrived at the point of apprehension. The respondent outlined how in each car there were two officers wearing sage green uniforms with the Bulgarian flag on their arms. They also had one dog, a German shepherd. The officers then took pictures of the group with their phones, and reportedly loaded them into the Nissan cars as follows: eight people (including the respondent) in the first car, four people in the second car (including one woman), and seven people (including one woman) in the third car.
“I gave a copy of my ID card to the officers who drove us but he tore it apart,” said the respondent.
The first car (which the respondent was in) and the second car, took the same direction, while the third car went in another direction. The respondent said that they were driven for about 20 minutes along what was described as an initially paved road, and then an unpaved road. “We kept colliding with each other because the trunk was so tight and the driver very recklessly and fast.” The respondent recalled how they ended up close to the Turkish border, in a forest in the area of Goylam, surrounded by a high barbed fence. One officer wearing a green shirt and green pants was reportedly waiting next to the fence in order to open a small unofficial door in the fence.
The respondent recounted how the officers took out the three men and the women who were in the other car first. The men were forced to undress and left only in their underwear and their shirts. The officers pushed them back to Turkey through the small door. Then, the respondent further recounted, the officers took out the eight people one by one from the car in which the respondent had been loaded. One of the men managed to run through the door as soon as he was taken out of the car. “The door was open and there was no officer to block it,” explained the respondent.
The officers forced the rest of the group to take their clothes off.
“When we were undressing, the officers saw that one of us had a Christian cross on him, so they told him to not take off his clothes and let him go to Turkey. But all of the other ones, including me, had to undress.”
The respondent described how he was left wearing only half-leg pants and a shirt, while some of the others were left only in their underwear.
Once the eight men, including the respondent, were half-naked, the officers let the dog attack them.
“I have a phobia of the dog and a heart illness, so I kept yelling to the officers “please sirs, please sirs” but they all kept laughing at me. The dog bit my legs and the officers were saying “bravo bravo” to encourage the dog. I managed to move the dog away from my legs but the officers brought it back and made it bite me again.”
The respondent said an officer was blocking the unofficial door in the fence with his body, preventing the group from escaping the dog.
After the dog attack, the respondent described how an officer began beating the group by kicking them with their boots, slapping their faces and hitting them with tree branches.
“The officers beat me very much because I tried to move the dog away. They hit me on my chest with their elbow and they kicked my legs where it was injured because of the dog’s bites.”
The seven men, including the respondent, were then pushed back through the small door in the fence, injured and half-naked, without any shoes. They walked two or three hours on an unpaved road in the forest, and arrived, at around five or six in the evening, near a village that was identified by the respondent as Küçüköğünlü. Here, they met with the other four people from their group who had been pushed back before them. The group found someone in the village to call a taxi. It took them 30 minutes to drive back to Edirne.