“One officer pressed the gun against my friend’s cheek and told him….Bulgaria, ha! Bulgaria”

  • Date and time: November 6, 2021 09:00
  • Location: Matochina (BG) to Çömlekköy (TR)
  • Coordinates: 41.8498729, 26.5406626
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 6 person(s), age: 25-35 years old , from: Algeria
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 6 men; all in sacramento green uniforms; 2 green and white jeeps; spoke Bulgarian and English.
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Unknown
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

On the morning of November the 6th, the 29-year-old respondent and five other people on the move (POM) were pushed back from Matochina, Bulgaria to Çömlekköy, Turkey. This was the sixth time that the respondent was pushed back from Bulgaria to Turkey. All POM were Algerian males aged 25 to 35 years old. 

At around 15:00 the previous day, the six men began their journey from Edirne to the Turkish-Bulgarian border by foot. After nearly eight hours of walking, the group rested briefly near a small town before crossing. At around 2:00 in the morning the next day, the six men climbed over the fence into Bulgaria. After walking for approximately four hours (8 KMs) from the border crossing, they reached the town of Lesovo. To avoid being spotted, they followed an unpaved road on the outskirts of the village. At around 5:30, they were caught off guard by the lights of two approaching cars. The six men hid nearby. Moments later, two cars stopped and six Bulgarian border police wearing black boots and Sacramento green uniforms filed out of the vehicles (see Image 1). Aware of the scare tactics used by border police namely, the use of guns and dogs, they decided to remain hidden instead of running. Even in hiding, they were soon discovered by the six border guards. 

Image 1: Bulgarian Border Police Uniforms

With all six men now gathered by the border police, the group was ordered to hand over their phones, money, and bags. They were addressed in rudimentary English by two of the six officers who asked whether they had any money. When they mentioned that they had none, the officers laughed. They pressed the six men for information about the crossing point, yet no one disclosed any specifics. While gathered, the respondent was reportedly beaten on the shoulder with a plastic baton for two to three seconds when caught looking at one of the officers. The only two languages spoken by the border police were Bulgarian and English. 

The officers then forced all six men to the front of the two vehicles. They were told to sit with hands behind their heads and not to move. While sitting, the respondent noted that one officer pressed the gun against my friend’s cheek and told him….Bulgaria, ha! Bulgaria.”  All six officers were carrying weapons (see Image 2). 

Image 2: Heckler & Koch MP5

The group remained in these positions for around 30 minutes before being ordered to get into the two vehicles. Now nearer to the cars, the respondent confirmed that Border Police was written in English along the doors of green and white jeeps (see Image 3). All six men were told to load their bags into one jeep and then climb into the back of the other. Their bags were never returned. The group was then driven for approximately 15 minutes. While no one could see outside of the trunk, the potholes made it clear that they were driving on unpaved roads. Measuring around only 1 by 2 meters, the respondent reportedly could barely breathe while also colliding with the others due to the reckless driving.

Image 3: Bulgarian Border Police Jeep

At around 6:00, the cars came to a stop. Unloaded from the trunk, the respondent could now see his surroundings. He was back at the border. Near to them he reportedly saw only a small forest on the Bulgarian side. Only the two vehicles and six officers who initially apprehended the group were present. With all six men outside of the vehicles, they were then told to kneel in front of the two jeeps while the border police remained inside of the cars. The group of six were kept in this position in the cold for an hour. 

When the officers finally got out of the vehicles, they came with hands raised. Soon, all of the officers began slapping the men reportedly telling the group “No Bulgaria!” One of the POM began crying. The only response was another targeted slap by one of the officers, but the man dodged the attempted blow only to then be violently kicked in his stomach and back, instead. The whole group was reportedly beaten with plastic batons, slapped, or kicked. The abuse lasted for almost ten minutes. No medical support was provided.

The men were then searched from head to toe while the officers belligerently pressed them again to hand over any money. Near them was a small door inside of the border fence. Having been pushed back through similar doors, the respondent knew a pushback was imminent. Battered and cold, the group was then ordered to take off their shoes and walk through the door. When the pace wasn’t fast enough for the officers, two of them began kicking the men to make them move quicker. On the other side of the fence was a river. Before reaching the water, the group was physically forced down a hill that took them to the river bank. The six began wading through the freezing water and muddy river bed. Slipping on the unstable ground, one friend reportedly almost drowned. When they reached the other side of the river, the time was around 9:00 on the 6th of November. 

Cold, wet, and barefoot, the six set off for Edirne. An hour from the border, they hit the town of Çömlekköy where they were offered bread and water by town residents. It took another four hours for them to reach Edirne. Neither food nor water was provided during the entirety of their captivity. No photos were taken, documents signed, or translations provided.