Asylum seekers mistreated in Bulgaria, returned to Turkey: report

Bulgarian border police patrol next to a barbed wire wall fence erected on the Bulgaria-Turkey border near the town of Lesovo on February 21, 2017. NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

Migrants arriving in Bulgaria were detained in a “foul-smelling building,” mistreated, denied the right to claim asylum and returned to Turkey, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

“Secretly shot videos show people being held in a foul-smelling wooden building with barred windows. People say they were mistreated and returned to Turkey,” RFE/RL said in a tweet about an investigation conducted by RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service, Lighthouse Reports, Sky News, ARD Monitor, Domani, SRF, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.

The video released by RFE/RL shows that vehicles from Frontex, the European Union Border Agency, were parked right next to the shack.

https://twitter.com/RFERL/status/1600894697924427776

The European Commission on Tuesday urged Bulgaria to thoroughly investigate the alleged shooting by Bulgarian guards of a Syrian refugee on the country’s border with Turkey on October 3.

 “We take all allegations of any wrongdoings at the European border seriously, and violence and loss of life is unacceptable,” said Anitta Hipper, European Commission spokeswoman on home affairs, migration and internal security.

A video released Monday showed an asylum seeker collapsing to the ground after being struck by a bullet that penetrates his hand and lodges in his chest on October 3. In a separate video recorded days later, the man identified himself as 19-year-old Abdullah El Rustum from Syria. He said he was shot by Bulgarian border officers after his group was caught trying to illegally enter Bulgaria and pushed back into Turkey.

The Bulgarian government denied the allegations, saying its border guards have encountered more aggression from people trying to illegally enter the country.

Last week two migrants, whose nationalities have not yet been determined, were found lying on the ground in the village of Vaysal on the Bulgarian border, Turkish media reported. The gendarmerie and medical teams that arrived at the scene found that one of the migrants had frozen to death and that the other was suffering from hypothermia. The latter was taken to a hospital in Edirne. The medical team determined that both migrants had been severely beaten, according to local media.

In November Bulgaria deployed 350 soldiers to the border with Turkey to help police cope with the growing influx of migrants, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Bulgarian defense minister.

“Soldiers arrived at the Bulgarian-Turkish border today to back up the border police,” Georgi Panayotov told bTV.

2022 has already seen more than 6,500 people cross illegally into Bulgaria, three times the number for the first nine months of 2020, AFP said, citing the Bulgarian interior ministry.

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