The respondent is a 25-year-old Tunisian man. On September 8th at around 6 or 7 am, he and a friend, a 33-year-old man also from Tunisia, jumped over the fence separating Turkey and Bulgaria near Kapikule, Turkey.
Once in Bulgaria, they walked for about 17 kilometers, intending to travel to Harmanli. The only time they stopped to rest was after they crossed the border fence when they saw a Bulgarian border patrol checking the area and hid for an hour and a half.
After walking for 17 kilometers, the two men were apprehended at around 8 pm by Bulgarian officers in a forest, not too far from the nearest road. The respondent recalled, “We were walking and they came out of nowhere. One officer told us [in English] to stop and sit down…then two other officers came and surrounded us—one of them was holding a dog.” Three of the four officers were wearing green shirts and pants while the officer holding the dog (a German Shepherd) was wearing a balaclava, and they were driving a green and white Nissan Navara with “border police” written on it. The respondent identified the uniform as the same in the picture below.
The officers asked the respondent and his friend where the rest of their group was and where they were from. When the respondent answered that they were not with a group, an officer hit him twice with a plastic police baton.
The respondent said that the officers “took everything: 33 liras, clothing, perfume, a power bank, and phones.” They stayed there for around an hour and a half, during which time the officers kept asking where the rest of their group was, not believing that they were traveling alone, and kept searching the woods. The officers made a phone call but no one else arrived.
Finally, the two men were put in the trunk of the Nissan, which measured around one by one meter. The respondent recalled, “It was so hot we could barely breathe.” The men were driven for about an hour on an unpaved road, unable to see outside. They said the officers drove slowly, looking for others along the way.
When they arrived at the pushback site, one of the officers opened the trunk and let them out. The respondent noticed a camera on the fence and said the door was a “small, rectangular door in the fence that was closed and opened with a lock.” After they were pushed back, the respondent recalled, “…we found a river in Turkey and then a sign that said, ‘army zone’ with a picture of a soldier holding a gun, so we walked fast.” They passed a small village, Budakdoğanca, shortly after crossing the border and then arrived in Edirne at around 2 am, after walking for approximately 25 kilometers.
The respondent said they were unable to ask for asylum. He stated, “We couldn’t. They hit you even at the fence. One officer told me, ‘One more time in Bulgaria and I will kill you.’”