“'Each of you give me 50 Euros and whatever you have and i will take you to Sofia', said one policeman.”

  • Date and time: September 18, 2021 00:00
  • Location: Elchowo / Hamzabeyli
  • Coordinates: 41.964762, 26.643187
  • Pushback from: Bulgaria
  • Pushback to: Turkey
  • Demographics: 12 person(s), age: 11-57 , from: Syria
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, threatening with guns, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 4 - 8 policemen in sage green uniform with the Bulgarian flag on the sleeves and “border police” written on its back; 1 green Jeep with “Bulgaria” written on the door; 9 policemen in sage green uniform and Bulgarian insignia; 1 black discovery land rover
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: josoor

Original Report

The respondent, a 57-year-old man from Syria, has experienced 6 pushbacks so far. His most recent one happened on the 18th of September 2021, from near Elchowo in Bulgaria to Hamzabeyli in Turkey. 

On the 17th of September at around 11 pm, the respondent and 12 other males from Syria, aged from 11 – 57, travelled by car from Edirne to the fence at the Bulgarian border, near Hamzabeyli

After a one-hour drive, the group waited at a specified location for one hour for the right moment to cross the border fence. Inside Bulgarian territory, they walked for another 5 hours for 10 km until they reached a location at around 5 am, where the group waited to go to Sofia by another car. 

They waited for 30 minutes in the forest next to a nearby village – reportedly a village called “Lalkovo”. The awaited car did not arrive. Instead, one patrolling officer apprehended the group. The respondent states that the officer was holding a gun. His uniform consisted of sage green pants and a shirt with the Bulgarian flag on the sleeves and “border police” written on its back. . 

At the apprehension site, the respondent and the rest of the transit group were forced to lay down on the ground for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, other officers appeared and asked questions in English about where they were from and whether they wanted to go to Sofia. The respondent answered that everyone was from Syria. “Each of you give me 50 Euros and whatever you have and I will take you to Sofia”, said one policeman. Some of the group, including the respondent, did give the money and the policeman took their bags and shoes and told them to follow him. They walked barefoot towards a paved road for about 600 m while the policeman was talking on the phone. 

The respondent waited aside the road for 20 minutes until 4 more officers arrived. All were dressed in sage green pants and shirts with the same insignia of Bulgarian border police. The vehicle was a range- or land rover, consistent with the picture below. 

Image: Bulgarian Border Police – Discovery Landrovers (source: https://sofiaglobe.com/2019/03/08/bulgarian-border-police-get-70-off-road-vehicles-costing-more-than-7m-leva/)

These officers started kicking the people who were waiting along the road in order to get them in the back of the vehicle. The vehicle didn’t have enough space and the group were crammed together. 

The journey took about 25 minutes and the driving was described as reckless. The route was along an unpaved road, and the driving was so fast that everybody kept colliding and hitting their heads against each other. The car eventually arrived at the pushback point next to the fence. 

3 other policemen were at the site as well as a green Jeep with “Bulgaria” written on the door. The officers there were dressed in the same sage green uniforms, as described above. 

In total, there were 7 policemen who spoke in Bulgarian with each other and in English to the respondent and the group, saying “Hurry up” and “go”. The officers beat the transit group with branches. The door through which the group was pushed back looked like a garage door in the fence, which the officers pulled down to open it. 

The pushback point was surrounded by a forest and a road next to the barbed-wired fence. The respondent remembered that they could see the lights of Hamzabeyli, so they assumed that they were not far from that village. 

After being pushed back to Turkey, the group walked for 1 hour in the forest until reaching Hamzabeyli. At some point, they took a taxi to Edirne

The intention to ask for asylum was expressed. “We said camp and that we waited for that but it didn’t happen, I know they don’t want us in their countries.”