The respondent is a 20 year old Syrian woman who recounted a violent pushback from Bulgaria, involving Frontex officers. She was traveling with 13 Syrian people, including 12 men and one woman, with their ages ranging between 16 and 35.
On the 7th of May, the group crossed the Bulgarian–Turkish border in the early morning by going through a hole that they had cut in the fence, at a location northeast of Kırklareli. After walking 4 or 5 kilometres in Bulgaria, they slept in the forest until sunset. Once it was dark on the same day, they kept moving.
They walked another 2 kilometres before they were apprehended, close to a paved road by 14 officers wearing balaclavas and black uniforms. The officers had four black Jeeps and four “big police dogs.” “When they saw us, the officers put the dog on us. So, we froze. One of the dogs bit me on my arm and on my leg.”
Once they had caught the group, the officers started to beat the men. The respondent said that three or four officers used brass knuckles. She recalled that one officer had the word “police” written in English on his shirt and some officers had the Bulgarian flag on their arm. She stated that the officers who didn’t wear the Bulgarian flag were speaking German, and some officers were talking in English with each other. She could recognise the German language since she studied German. The respondent also claimed to have seen a logo on the jacket of those officers speaking German. She later identified this logo as a Frontex logo.
After beating the group, the officers forced the men to undress and they searched them. “They stripped one of the men fully naked in front of me and the other woman”, related the respondent. The officers took and kept all the belongings from the men and left them in their underwear. The respondent and the other women have also been frisked by male officers. She didn’t have any money or phone with her but the officers took her shoes, her jacket, and the Muslim dress that she was wearing over her clothes and never gave them back. From the other woman, they took 100 dollars and her phone.
“The officers took everything from us with violence.”
The officers took pictures of the group with their phones but never asked them to sign any paper, and didn’t take their fingerprints. When the group told the officers that they wanted to apply for asylum, the officers answered them “not in Bulgaria”. “I asked for water but they didn’t give me any. That made them angry and they yelled at me”, said the respondent.
After beating and searching the group for about one hour, the officers took them in the trunks of the 4 cars. Every car went in a different direction. The respondent was loaded with the other woman and two men. “There was no seat to sit on, the trunk was so small that it could barely accommodate the four of us.”
After one hour and a half of fast and reckless driving on an unpaved road, they arrived at the border, identified as near to Malko Tarnovo. The officers beat the men with tree branches to force them to run towards the Turkish territory. “The officers threw a branch on me, I was hit on my head,” said the respondent.
The four people were pushed back to Turkey through a small unofficial door that the officers pulled up from the bottom to make them crawl under.
“The officers even entered the Turkish territory to watch us. About 30 metres after the fence, there was a river which was 3 metres wide, with strong current. We had to cross. I had water up to my shoulder, I was drowning but one of the men of my group saved me.”
It was after sunset when the group made it to the other side of the river, near to Şükrüpaşa. They walked about 3 kilometres and spent the night sleeping in the forest. In the morning they walked about 7 kilometres and ended up in the village of Dereköy, from where they took a taxi back to Edirne.