Members of the detained 104, who are part of the religious minority of the religious minority group Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, claim that they were tortured and beaten. The group, including elderly and children, asked for asylum in Bulgaria on the 24th of May 2023. After presenting themselves at the Turkish-Bulgarian border-crossing, Turkish authorities attacked them and detained the whole group. Days later the website of the religious minority published videos and voice records, which documented the violence of the Turkish authorities, that were also taking place during and after the incident at the border in the detention center in Edirne, which is located near the border.
With the group were also two British journalists arrested. In a statement, which was published by the Scottish Sun, one of the journalists, Sermad Al-Khafaji, said, that he was wearing a press vest and that had a press badge with him, when he was detained while holding a camera. He additionally stated that the Turkish police had also tried him to stop from filming and isolated him from the group. The two journalists are also accused as “British agents“. This phenomenon is not new. Since years Turkish authorities are trying to regulate the flow of information, using oppressive and discreditable tactics.
The second journalist, Alexandra Foreman, described the bad conditions in which the group is being held in Edirne’s detention center. She also said, that she was forced to see how a group of people was beaten in front of her. Redouane Foufa, a refugee from Algeria, said that he was beaten and injected with an unknown substance in the detention center. Some of the group members were being forced to sign documents, which they did not understand. Another young refugee, Poorya Lotfiinanllou from Iran, claimed that he was asked by a Turkish police officer for oral sex and that the officer threatened his life if he tells to a doctor.
Pulling and pushing back asylum seekers from the Turkish-Bulgarian border is not a new occurance. By the end of 2022, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published a letter, addressed to Bulgarian politicians in which she expressed concern about reports regarding pushbacks at Bulgaria’s land borders. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported about push-backs which affected more than 87,000 people, only in the year 2022. Recently the European Commission provided 45 Million Euro as a new financial support to Bulgaria, which will be added to the national program „under the Border Management and Visa Policy (BMVI) home affairs funding“.