30 April 2014

A new report by Human Rights Watch concludes that since November 2013, the Bulgarian government has been systematically preventing migrants from crossing into Bulgaria to apply for asylum as part of their ‘Containment Plan’ to address arrivals of people along its border with Turkey.

Human Rights Watch have based their findings on the sharp drop in the number of people crossing the border (from 3,626 in October 2013 to only 99 in the first five weeks of 2014); the formal announcement in November of a policy to contain and reduce the number of asylum seekers and other migrants irregularly crossing the border; the deployment of an additional 1,500 border guards; and the testimonies of 41 people giving accounts of 44 incidents in which at least 519 people were forcibly and summarily returned.

The migrants interviewed gave accounts of being apprehended inside Bulgaria or at the border and being summarily returned to Turkey, without proper procedures and with no opportunity to lodge asylum claims, either by being turned over to Turkish guards or by being taken to the border and ordered to walk in the direction of Turkey. Many of those interviewed about being summarily returned said that Bulgarian guards beat or otherwise mistreated them. “While we were walking he kept hitting me with his stick. (…) When we reached the border, the soldier showed the direction to Turkey”, testified a 21 year old Afghan.

Together with over 100 NGOs, Human Rights Watch is calling on European leaders to protect refugees arriving at the borders, give them a safe way into Europe and reunite families torn apart by war. You can also speak up against pushbacks by signing the #HelpSyriasRefugees petition.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 April 2014
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