“We were beaten so hard...we could barely stand on our feet”

  • Date and time: November 21, 2021 13:00
  • Location: Matochina (BG) to Hatipköy (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.8498729, 26.5406626
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 6 person(s), age: 17-28 years old , from: Morocco
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, dog attacks, forcing to undress, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 8 Bulgarian Border Police Officers, all wearing sacramento green uniforms. 1 Bulgarian police landrover. English and Bulgarian spoken.
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

On the 21st of November at approximately 13:00, a 17-year-old from Morocco was violently beaten and pushed back from Matochin, Bulgaria to Hatipköy, Turkey. Two days prior, he and five other Moroccan males (17 – 28 years old) travelled on foot for around 10 hours from Edirne to the Turkish-Bulgarian border. With only one quick rest along the way, the group reached the fence around 4:00 the next morning. With iron-cutting shears in hand, the group made a hole in the barbed fence and passed through onto Bulgarian soil. All six men made it across. They continued together deeper into Bulgarian territory for around seven hours (30 KMs) before their relief of a successful crossing soon took a turn. 

Resting close to Mramor behind nearby trees in the forest, the men heard the bark of an approaching dog. They began to run, but the two German Shepherds were too fast for the group (see Image 1). The respondent reported that he heard one of the two officers scream “zastrelyame!” which, as he understood, was a threat by the officers to shoot the men. The respondent confirmed later that the guns carried by the two officers were Smith & Wesson Model 910s (see Image 2). One dog caught up with the respondent’s friend, allegedly biting his leg and forcing him to stop. Although the friend was already wounded by the dog’s bite, an officer still came and violently kicked him for five minutes. The other five people-on-the-move also came to a stop. As the officers approached, the respondent saw three officers present: the two who ran behind them and one holding the dogs. All officers wore sacramento green uniforms with a lion and ‘Border Police’ written on the jacket (see Image 3). The time was around 11:00. 

Image 1: German Shepherd used by Bulgarian Border Police

 

Image 2: Smith & Wesson Model 910.
Image 3: Bulgarian Border Police Uniforms.

With all six men in one location, the officers reportedly rounded them up and beat them with their plastic batons and kicked them. At one point the respondent reportedly cried out “camp” offering this as an attempt to plead for asylum. “They were already beating us, I thought they didn’t even hear me when I was saying camp,” he reported. After 15 minutes, the officers let up. According to the respondent, they forced them to strip and took their clothing, shoes, and collectively around 250 euros from the men. For 30 minutes the six people-on-the-move remained fully naked in the cold. When their clothing was finally returned, the officers only gave back the pants and shirts throwing them at them and screaming, “pick up your clothes!” Neither their shoes nor phones were returned. At the end of the beating, the respondent reported, “we were beaten so hard…we could barely stand on our feet.” The officers questioned the men about where they were from, using only English when addressing the group while speaking to each other in Bulgarian. Then the officers, again, laid their boots into the men. 

In total, the group remained there until around 13:00. 

The six men were then forced to walk along an unpaved road, where another car soon arrived. The respondent described the car as black with ‘Police’ written in Bulgarian on the front of the car (see Image 4). Inside, there were three additional officers. The uniforms were the same as those who first apprehended the group (see Image 1). When the officers came out of the vehicles, they quickly loaded the six men into the trunk. The first three officers left at this point, though one of the German shepherds also came in the car. 

Image 4: Bulgarian Border Police Landrovers.

Once inside, the respondent reported that the trunk was no larger than 1 meter by 2 meters. Nothing outside was visible given the tinted windows. As they drove, they could clearly feel potholes rather than a paved road. They remained in the car for 30 minutes as the officers reportedly drove recklessly along the unpaved road. When the car stopped and the trunk opened, they were met by two other officers. Each was wearing the same uniform as the previous six officers. The people-on-the-move were asked to kneel in front of the officers. At the same time, the officers began taunting the men – pacing near to them with the dog and laughing, while saying, “Bulgaria, good!” Then they reportedly let the dog free and watched while the men screamed in pain as the dogs attacked them. This lasted for around three minutes. 

In the fence near to them, the respondent reported that there was a sliding door. The officers pulled the top of the door down and kicked the men through the opening. There was a forest on both sides of the fence. Landing back on Turkish soil around 13:00, the men walked approximately two hours before reaching the small town of Hatipköy. Through a friend, they were able to reach a taxi that drove them back to Edirne. 

No food, water, or medical support was made available. None of the six men signed any papers nor were any photos taken of them.