The respondent is a 27 year-old man, from Syria. He was travelling 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 across a fence.
After they had walked for around 12 hours, crossing 50 km, they arrived close to a village where they were expecting a car to be there to take them to Sofia. They hid in the forest for three days but the car never came. On the third day, on the 6th of May, as they ran out of food and water, they decided to give up and to surrender to the police. 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.
Two Bulgarian officers came out of the car: 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 in English on it. The male officer had a logo with the Bulgarian flag and a lion on his arm.
The officers forced the whole group to walk for about 15 minutes to get somewhere in the forest, where 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 talked with the transit group in English, and between them, they were talking in Bulgarian.
The respondent and his group asked 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 paper, and they didn’t provide a translator to allow them to understand what was happening, but the respondent spoke a bit of English so was able to understand parts.
After the search, three brown Nissan cars arrived. 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. When the officers arrived, they took pictures of the group with their phones, then they took them in the cars as follows: 8 people (including the respondent) in the first car, 4 people in the second car (including one woman), 7 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 (in which the respondent was in) and the second car took the same direction while the third car took another direction. The respondent said that they were driven for about 20 minutes along initially a 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 cars ended up close to the border, in a location which was in the forest in the area of Goylam, where there was a high barbed fence. One officer wearing a green shirt and green pants was waiting next to the fence in order to open a small unofficial door in the fence.
First, the officers took out the three men and the women who were in the other car. The men were forced to undress and left only with their underwear and their shirt. The officers pushed them back to Turkey through the small door. Then, the officers took out the 8 people from the car in which the respondent had been loaded. They took them out one by one. 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 was left with half-leg pants and his shirt, while some of the others were left only with their underwear.
When the 8 men 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 recounted that there was an officer blocking the unofficial door in the fence with his body to not let them escape from the dog.
After the dog attack, the officer kept on 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 six men were left injured, half-naked, with no shoes, and pushed back through the small door in the fence. They walked 2 or 3 hours on an unpaved road in the forest, and arrived, around 5 or 6 PM, near a village which was identified as Küçüköğünlü, where they met with the other people from their group who were 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.