The Bulgarian authorities are currently confronted with a specific case concerning an Iraqi citizen who has already returned to his country of origin. On January 13, 2019, he was detained to the CCC – Vidin without identity documents and charged with Article 279, para 1 in connection with art. 18, para 1 of the Penal Code for attempting to cross the state border in an unregulated manner.
The criminal proceedings ended with the NDHD Agreement No. 313-2019 of the Vidin District Court of 21 March 2019, on which date he was released from detention and issued orders for return to the country of origin and accommodated in Busmantsi, a Special Home for temporary accommodation of Foreigners (SCTAF). Soon after his transfer to the SCTAF, he signed a declaration of consent for voluntary return and returned to Iraq.
In the following excerpt of an interview, done by Maddie Harris from Humans for Rights, one can read about his recent experience in a short-term holding facility in Vidin.
[…] (The police) took pictures of us, they said because the interpreter was not our language, he was Arabic and didn’t explain anything. they made us sign some documents without us knowing what it was, by force. They took us to Vidin for 3 months and some days then they took us to court again, and they said you have to sign this document, that you are on probation for three years, if you cross the border again they will put me in jail for five years.
After that, they took me to Busmantsi in Sofia (after the three months in Vidin) The papers were in Bulgarian and we couldn’t even read it, they said you have to sign them and if you don’t sign them you will stay here (in Vidin), in this border prison, if we sign it, you go to the camps for 15 days and then you will be free, so we signed it, this is force. We signed the papers, they took us from court, the interpreter said you are going to go to the Vidin place for 72 hours and after that you will be free, you will be taken to the camps. We were then in Vidin prison for 72 hours, after that, they took us back to court, and then the court said, that we were going to stay in Vidin for 15 days, we were so mad, they took us back to the prison, but it wasn’t 15 days it was three months and some days. (In the prison) there was three times use of the toilet every day, there was so dirty, the room was so dirty, there was fleas in the room the mattress was like 2 years old, there was no pillow, there was no glass in the window, so air was coming and we was three people that had to go to the toilet at the same time and we had to piss and shit in front of each other.[…]
The prison in Vidin was already mentioned in an European Human Right Court (ECHR) ruling of 2017. The ECHR ruled against Bulgaria a violation of Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment) concerning a family with its three children during their detainment in 2015. About the current case of the Iraqi citizen, the Bulgarian Ombudsman was informed some weeks ago.