Almost 100 refugees died on their way through Bulgaria within the last two years

According to a research by the ARD studio in Vienna in cooperation with Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, RFE/RL, Solomon and inews which was published in the beginning of December 2023 at least 93 people died on their way through Bulgaria in the last two years alone.

The research team spoke with forensic pathologists in Bulgaria and people whose family members had gone missing or died on the route. The people on the run are usually dying because of exhaustion and cold on their route, which leads through mountains, bushes and the countryside. The last case was reported on the 27th of November 2023 by the Bulgarian authorities. Additionally there is a fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border which was constructed already in 2013 and replaced and modified in the following years with a bigger one. Additionally to this numerous car accidents are happening regularly. Some of them are fatal.

Video Source: May Bulman/Lighthouse reports

But not only the dangerous way is the problem for the people on the run, there is also the Bulgarian border police, which is accused of brutal Push-Backs. According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee only in 2022 almost 90.000 people where affected by push-backs. Also young people with their families and unaccompanied minors are at risk to be push-backed, as the NGOs “Center for legal aid – Voice in Bulgaria“ and “Mission Wings“ found out, while conducting interviews in Turkey. For 2023 Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov stated that that app 165,000 ‚illegal entry attempts‘ at the Bulgarian-Turkish were prevented.

With regard to Bulgaria, the fundamental rights officer of the EU border protection authority Frontex became active in a total of seven internally reported cases regarding possible violations of fundamental rights, the authority said in response to a request from ORF. In the beginning of December 2023. All cases concern pushback allegations from Bulgaria to Turkey, a Frontex spokeswoman said. At least 232 Frontex officers were deployed in Bulgaria in 2023.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Asylum seekers say that they were tortured and beaten in Edirne’s detention center

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.

Statement of Hassan Oyandi
Photo Sources: The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light

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“.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

More than 100 refugees pulled back from the Turkish-Bulgarian Border

Today on the the 24th of May 2023, more than 100 members of the religious minority, the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, gathered at the Turkish-Bulgarian border. The group, including women, children and old people, asked there to cross the border to apply for asylum on the Bulgarian side. Turkish authorities did not led them pass and brutally pulled them back with batons, also gun shots were fired.

The Kapikule border crossing was closed for two hours, the group was arrested and their belongings were taken away. The arrested people are currently in danger of deportation. The Sofia Globe wrote that the arrested members of the group were from the United Kingdom, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Jordan and Turkey. Several people got injured during the incident, as one could e.g. see in a video, which was published by Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light.

In a letter, which was signed by Bulgarian and other international humanitarian organizations, and sent to FRONTEX as well as the Bulgarian Border police one day before, the situation of the group and the planned border crossing attempt was described and announced. In the letter the group mentioned, that even before it wrote to “UNHCR in Bulgaria, the State Agency for Refugees (SAR), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs „to request a visa on humanitarian grounds“. However, the Bulgarian Border Police or other Bulgarian authorities were not seen at the whole scenery on the Turkish side of the Turkish-Bulgarian border today.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Another refugee dies on the streets of Bulgaria

Ten refugees from Afghanistan were injured and one died after their car overturned near the Aldomirovo swamp in the Dragoman region. The driver ignored a police sign of the border police and crushed against a concrete block. Six migrants were taken to the ISUL hospital, four to the „Pirogov“ hospital and another four to the UMBAL „St. Anna“ hospital. In the last days several drivers were stopped, who carried refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.

Such incidents happen regularly in Bulgaria during the last months. During a crash in February 2023 one refugee from Afghanistan died by the end of February. In the same month 18 refugees were found dead near Sofia. In the year of 2022 the numbers of the “irregular apprehended migrants in Bulgaria“ increased from 10,799 (in 2021) to 16,767.

Source: ECRE/SAR

Iliana Savova, the Director of the Refugee and Migrant Legal Programme at the Bulgarian
Helsinki Committee (BHC), wrote in her new report, which was published together with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), that in the same year 5,268 pushbacks were affecting 87,647 people. Still many refugees don’t want to stay in Bulgaria. 46% of the asylum applications were not discontinued, because the appliers were fleeing to another country afterwards.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Refugee dies on Trakia highway

A minibus with 46 refugees from Afghanistan crashed at the “Trakiya“ highway in the are of Chirpan because of a flat tire. One refugee died at the scene of the accident. 30 injured were taken to nearby hospitals, two are in a serious condition and in intensive care. In total 26 refugees have to stay in a hospital at Stara Zagora. Another Van with 50 refugees was intercepted this morning.

In their confessions two arrested people said that some days ago 120 refugees from Afghanistan had crossed the fence at the border at the Bulgarian-Turkish border with a ladder. From there they had been distributed to different vehicles to move on. Refugees regularly die on the streets of Bulgaria. Most recently, 18 refugees died near Sofia on the 17th of February.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

18 Afghan refugees die in a truck near Sofia

According to Bulgarian authorities 18 dead Afghans were found yesterday in an abandoned truck in the area of Sofia, near the village of Lokorsko. A child is also among the victims. In total more than 50 people were on board. Many of the survivors were taken care of in clinics. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Health they are in a very bad condition. Some of them are in intensive care. The truck came from the Turkish-Bulgarian border and was probably on its way to the Bulgarian-Serbian border. According to the examinations of the dead bodies, the 18 people died as “a result of suffocation due to being squeezed and pushed into the hiding place of the truck.“

Photo Source: Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office

There is already a fence covering most parts of the Turkish-Bulgarian land border, which is almost 270 km long. Refugees have no possibilities to ask for asylum at Bulgarian border checkpoints, because they cannot legally enter the Bulgarian territory from Turkey. In the last years several people perished on the illegal routes to and through Bulgaria. Furthermore, Afghan nationals are a “subject to unfair and discriminatory treatment“ in Bulgaria, with very low asylum recognition rates, namely 10%.

Lately the EU-Commission decided on a pilot project, which will offer Bulgaria and Romania an “integrated package of mobile and stationary infrastructure, from cars to cameras and watchtowers to electronic surveillance,“ for their external borders, which is funded by the EU budget and national budgets“. But such inhumane politics will unfortunately not reduce these kind of deadly incidents. As already seen in the examples cases of the Spanish exclaves of Melilla and Ceuta, fences are not stopping people from crossing it. To the contrary, they will cause more likely more cases of death.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Shots fired at Bulgarian-Turkish border

On the 3rd of October 2022, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee was shot on the Turkish-Bulgarian border, after a group of refugees was push-backed from Bulgaria to Turkey. The injured young man was brought to a Turkish hospital afterwards, where he luckily survived the attack. The report and video of the shot was published today by an investigative team of journalists. Journalists and activists are usually not allowed to enter the border area. In the following month of the incident (on the 7th of November 2022) a policemen was shot dead on the same border. Already in 2015 an Afghan refugee was shot dead by a Bulgarian border police man.

This year the pressure on the Bulgarian-Turkish border is increasing again. According to the Bulgarian authorities, more than 150,000 attempts to enter Bulgaria from Turkey have been made so far this year. In the last months, several policemen and refugees were involved in a couple of deadly traffic accidents.

In the city of Sredets, the Bulgarian border police kept arrested refugees in a small shed on the premises of the police station for months and then brought them back to Turkey after a while without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum beforehand. The investigating journalist Maria Cheresheva told in an interview:

„I heard a lot of testimonies from people who weren’t allowed to apply for asylum. They were pushed back before they could ask for asylum. […] The system works as follows: people caught at the border are immediately pushed back to Turkey, and those caught inland are taken to places like the one in Sredets described. They will be held there for a few hours until their pushback is organized.

Push Back is the term for the practice of pushing back refugees without a residence permit at the national border and from behind the national border. The practice is illegal in the EU, but was taking place for months in Sredets. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria is very concerned about the deadly violence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border and the ongoing Push Backs, which have to be stopped immediately.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Turkish media report about deadly push-Back form Bulgaria

The government friendly newspaper Yeni Şafak and Turkish state news Anadolu Agency reported about a Push-Back of refugees from Bulgaria to Turkey. The Stockholm Freedom Center reports that two people were beaten and push-backed by Bulgarian authorities. They were found on the ground  in the village of Vaysal in Turkey’s Edirne province by Turkish gendarmerie. One refugee died the other one was suffering from hypothermia brought into a hospital in Edirne.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Report about hospitals in Burgas, which are allegedly full of unclaimed dead bodies of refugees

While discussions emerged in the European parliament and in the European council weather Bulgaria and Romania should join the Schengen Area, the Bulgarian English-language based webpage Novinite reported recently about unclaimed dead bodies of refugees in several hospitals of Burgas. The province Burgas (Oblast Burgas) is bordering Turkey in the South and the Black Sea in the West. In the report Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev claimes the identities of the dead bodies cannot be established. And the only forensic doctor in the district, Dr. Galina Mileva, is cited as follows:

There is a huge refugee flow, not only as migrants across the Turkish border, but also Ukrainians. We have many Ukrainians who died here. The relatives of some of them are ready to carry out their funerals here. However, others remain in the morgue, unclaimed.

Meanwhile the flow of refugees continues to and through Bulgaria. On the beginning of October a truck was found with 75 refugees on the Trakia highway, a group of 26 refugees was arrested during a police operation in the Tsaribrodska Street in Sofia and another group of 35 people in the Banishora district. The broadcasting station bTV published a video where several refugees are crossing the fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. It is not the first video report of this character.

In the interviews and statements Bordermonitoring Bulgaria conducted in Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Germany, refugees during the last years refugees are frequently referring to dead bodies in the Bulgarian-Turkish border area. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria is concerned about violent practices in the border region carried out by Bulgarian authorities and asks for immediate safe passages for refugees.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar

Bulgaria: Capacity of refugee centers located at the Turkish-Bulgarian border to be fully stretched

Currently the capacities of the two Bulgarian refugee centers next to the Bulgarian-Turkish border Pastrogor and Lyubimets are overcrowded. The closed refugee center of Lyubimets which is operated by the Ministry of Interior is planned to be exceeded by 1,200 new places, consisting of containers that will be built up in the yard of the prison. Bulgaria is still considered a transit country for people on the move, fleeing form their country of origin. Pastrogor, which is operated by the State Agency of Refugees, has a capacity of 300 people, where currently live more than 400. It functions as an open center, but has the possibility to be transformed into a closed one. Several media outlets reported also about tensions among the working staff, because of the current conditions in the center.

This year there had been constantly traffic accidents where refugees had been involved. In February, Bulgarian police found 61 Afghan refugees in a truck, which had an accident. Already in April, two Afghan refugees died in an accident involving a Bulgarian army vehicle. Two weeks ago, a bus carrying 30 people with Afghan citizenship crashed into a tree in the western Bulgarian town of Godech near the Serbian border and caught fire. The driver died in the accident. Then, last week, a bus carrying 47 Syrian refugees was pursued by police for 25 kilometers in the Burgas region, causing a traffic accident. According to media reports, the 15-year-old Syrian driver of the bus did not stop when a police car got in his way and then collided with it. The accident, in which two police officers died, led to major political discussions.

Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev spoke publicly of a „declaration of war by the trafficking gangs“ and did assume that Bulgarian border officials could be involved in the illegal transit of refugees. Also he said, that the border fence could be easily overclimbed with a ladder, which was also mentiones by Chief Commissioner Stanimir Stanev. He announced that he would have all refugee accommodation checked in the next few days, which was carried out e.g. in Sofia and told the Bulgarian National Radio that almost 1,000 migrants are currently being stopped every day. From the 27th of August 2022, the army is increasing its protection at the state border of Bulgaria. This will lead probably to a new escalation of violence in the border area. Already in May 2022 the organization Human Rights Watch had published a report about the ongoing violence and push backs at the Bulgarian border. In October 2022 the organization Info Park, which is located in Serbia, published a post to address violent cases and push-backs within the Bulgarian border area.

Veröffentlicht unter Allgemein | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , | Schreib einen Kommentar