25.04.2014

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)