Oxfam reports that refugees arriving in Europe through Bulgaria are claiming to have been abused by its police.
A survey funded by the international anti-poverty confederation alleges that incidents have taken place both at the Serbian-Bulgarian border and at holding centres in Bulgaria; more than 100 people interviewed, most of them from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, told of extortion, robbery, physical violence and police dog attacks.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Sofia confirms similar accounts.
In Dimitrovgrad, on the Serbian side of the border, refugees are registered and given a 72-hour pass to cross this non-EU country. Most are men and unaccompanied adolescents. Those from Afghanistan have come through Iran, Turkey, and Bulgaria.
Jahanzeb, giving his age as 16, said: “I have faced many difficulties on my way here, and haven’t had a minute of peace. Almost every day I have cried. I have been beaten up. If my mother knew, she would not stop crying. I could not walk for a whole week because my feet were raw and bleeding. Bulgarian policemen stole my shoes.”
Oxfam quoted Nikolina Milic of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights as saying: “What seems to be happening in [EU member] Bulgaria daily is totally unacceptable.”
Olan Hussein, from Iran, said: “I have been travelling for almost a month and a half. I left Iran for Turkey and then Bulgaria, where I was imprisoned for 18 days. I crossed the border and the Bulgarian police arrested me and put me in a camp that was really a prison. They took my passport — and would not give it back to me.”
The Serbian government provides a daily bus from Dimitrovgrad to Belgrade. From the capital, another bus goes to the Croatian border.
A few days ago, Sofia news agency Novinite carried the headline: Bulgarian President Identifies Refugees as Posing Greatest Threat to National Security.
You can read the Testimony of people arriving in Dimitrovgrad, Serbia from Bulgaria here.