To prevent refugees from crossing the EU border, Bulgarian border guards use any means: repeatedly asylum seekers were pushed back illegally at the Turkish border. This is the result of a research by our cooperation partner Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB).

At first the poli­ce sat with us, they recei­ved us, they told me they were taking me to the camp. They gave us water, they were so nice to us. But, then when they loa­ded us into the car, retur­ned us to the bor­der and star­ted bea­ting us”, a Syri­an woman reports. She tried with her two minor and two adult child­ren to cross the Bul­ga­ri­an bor­der in order to seek access to pro­tec­tion in the EU. Even her 10-year-old son was not excep­ted from the attacks.

Ins­tead of get­ting the chan­ce to app­ly for asyl­um the fami­ly has been pushed back vio­lent­ly to Tur­key.  The team from Bor­der­mo­ni­to­ring Bul­ga­ria (BMB) is doing rese­arch on the human rights situa­ti­on of asyl­um see­kers at the Bul­ga­ri­an-Tur­kish bor­der with sup­port of PRO ASYL. They have visi­ted the fami­ly in a Tur­kish hos­pi­tal whe­re the refu­gees are trea­ted due to several bone fractures.

Push-Backs in order to deter refugees

Push-back ope­ra­ti­ons at the Bul­ga­ri­an-Tur­kish bor­der are no excep­ti­ons. During their rese­arch in March 2014 Bor­der moni­to­ring Bul­ga­ria has met other refu­gees in the refu­gee camp of Har­m­an­li, who beca­me vic­tims from Push-back ope­ra­ti­ons at the Bul­ga­ri­an EU- exter­nal bor­der, befo­re they final­ly suc­cee­ded to ent­ry Bulgaria.

In two of the repor­ted cases, even vul­nerable refu­gees were con­cer­ned – for examp­le pregnant women. In one of the cases a pregnant woman had lost her unborn child after a Push-back ope­ra­ti­on to Tur­key. She expe­ri­en­ced the bor­der poli­ce bea­ting her hus­band in the bodi­ly are­as of his feet and back. Many vic­tims of Push-backs testi­fied to have been threa­tened with wea­pons by the Bul­ga­ri­an bor­der police. 

Several reports and state­ments from UNHCR, Amnes­ty Inter­na­tio­nal and Human Right Watch con­firm that Push-back ope­ra­ti­ons are used as a spe­ci­fic stra­te­gy sin­ce the begin­ning of 2014.

Bill Frel­lik from Human Rights watch reports: „We have heard 44 detail­ed witness’s state­ments about 44 Push-back ope­ra­ti­ons which have affec­ted at least a total of 519 peop­le. ’’Push-back seems part of Bul­ga­ri­an stra­te­gy to clo­se the Bul­ga­ri­an seg­ment of EU –bor­der for asyl­um seekers.

The Bul­ga­ri­an Inte­rior Minis­ter announ­ced the “inf­lux of ille­gal immi­grants” had vir­tual­ly cea­sed in Janu­a­ry 2014. While in Decem­ber 9000 asyl­um see­ker were accom­mo­da­te in Bul­ga­ria- most­ly from Syria- the num­ber has drop­ped in April to 6,700, while at the same time the num­ber of Syri­an refu­gees in Tur­key and in the neigh­bor coun­tries has incre­a­sed to over 2.5 million.

Bul­ga­ri­an blocks their boar­der using bru­tal Push-back without regards to inter­na­tio­nal refu­gee law or human rights of tho­se, who are affected.

Their Mot­to is: Tho­se who make it across the bor­der will be sent back with bru­ta­li­ty – with no respect for inter­na­tio­nal refu­gee law or human rights obligations.

PRO ASYL and Bor­der Moni­to­ring Bul­ga­ria pro­mo­te that Push-back ope­ra­ti­ons, which are a vio­la­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal law, have to end immedia­te­ly. The past cases of Push-backs have to be inves­ti­ga­ted. Due to the human rights vio­la­ti­on of refu­gees and the still inhu­ma­ne living con­di­ti­ons, the so-cal­led Dub­lin depor­ta­ti­ons of refu­gees to Bul­ga­ria need to be stop­ped urgently.

 PRO ASYL-Bericht: Schwe­re Miss­hand­lun­gen von Flücht­lin­gen in Bul­ga­ri­en (15.04.15)

 Seve­re ill-tre­at­ment of Syri­ans in Bul­ga­ria (02.06.14)