The respondent is a 19-years-old man from Morocco. In the past month, he was pushed back from Bulgaria to Turkey three times. We spoke to him in Greece about the last pushback he experienced 12 days ago.
After entering Bulgaria from Kirklareli, Turkey, and staying in Bulgaria for ten days, the respondent was at the train station in Burgas. He had bought a train ticket and was on the train when he was apprehended by a man wearing civilian clothes who asked him for his papers. The respondent was then asked to sit down and was handcuffed. He was taken off the train and put in a car.
After about an hour of driving, the car stopped and the man in civilian clothes handed the respondent over to five people. The respondent described the people as military officers – they wore green uniforms, boots, and had guns. He is unsure whether they had any insignia on their uniforms, as he was not allowed to look at any of them. Based on this description, it is likely that the officers were Bulgarian border guards (see image 1).
(Image 1: Bulgarian Border Guard)
The respondent explained that other people were being held as well when he arrived. The officers took the respondent’s food, money, and clothes. The respondent had no phone, but he explained that they took the phones from two other people who were being held. After about 15 minutes, the officers placed the respondent and four other people, all of them from Morocco, 25, 26, 30 and 31 years old, in an old four by four car, metal from behind. In about ten minutes they were driven to the border by two officers.
“They were driving crazy, so sometimes I knocked my head against the metal, because there was no security.”
At around 6AM, the respondent and four other men were pushed back through a gate into Kirklareli province, Turkey. The officers opened the gate and pushed everyone through it one by one while beating them with batons.
“They told us: if you come back again, we will slaughter you.”
Based on the respondent’s description, it is very likely that they were pushed back to Turkey near Malko Tarnovo.
After the respondent was pushed back to Turkey, he met two Moroccan men who were also pushed back from Bulgaria to Turkey. He explained that they were heavily beaten. One of them had a broken arm.
At around 10AM, the respondent and two other men were apprehended by two Turkish police officers driving a white Fiat. The officers, both men of about 35 years of age, were, as the respondent recalls, wearing civilian clothes and had batons in their hands. They told the respondent that they were Turkish police officers, but they did not show any documents.
“If you said any word they don’t like, they would either insult you or beat you.”
The police officers told them that they would take them to a hospital to have their injuries checked. They called someone who brought a van and took them to Kirklareli hospital where they were checked for covid but were not given medical attention for their injuries. The respondent recalls that he was told that they would let him go after a visit to the hospital, but he was not.
“This guy who had a broken arm and had so many injuries was crying from pain and they didn’t do anything for him.”
After the hospital, the two police officers took them to a police station in Edirne, close to the border. At the police station they had to give fingerprints and pictures were taken.
“We were forced to do it, to take the fingerprints.”
The respondent explained that he did not say anything to avoid violence, but that he was offended.
“If you say that you don’t want to give your fingerprints, they will beat you.”
For ten hours, the respondent was left in a van at the police station, together with the two men from Morocco, without access to food and water, and no access to a toilet.
“The place was really tight, there was no oxygen. You can’t breathe inside.”
The man with a broken arm was eventually taken to a hospital. The respondent recalls that although everyone was injured and needed to go to the hospital, they only took the man who was most injured.
“He was crying and in the end they took him to the hospital.”
They were not allowed to talk while being held in the van. The respondent explained that he did not know why he was being held and was afraid to ask.
“I told the police officer that I can’t breathe and that I needed some space and then he insulted me straight away.”
After being held in the bus, they were taken to Kirklareli camp, which was an hour to an hour and a half away. In the camp, he was beaten by a guard and placed in a dark room for one day.
“On the last day, before they released us, they took us to a dark room. There was nothing. There was no toilet, no food. I think that this is a policy to scare us and to make us worried to not try again.”
The respondent was released after six days, after which he came to Greece.
At no point did the respondent express his willingness to apply for asylum.