Bulgarian police steal belongings and use violence against asylum seekers while implying forceful return to Turkey, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
A survey covered by Human Rights Watch carried out between October and December last year amongst 45 refugees in six countries has revealed that refugees experience forceful returns, robbery, violence and police dog attacks.
At least 59 incidents of forceful returns from Bulgaria to Turkey had occurred between March and November last year with 26 refugees saying they had been beaten by police or bitten by police dogs, HRW stated.
“All but one said they were stripped of their possessions, in some cases at gunpoint by people they described as Bulgarian law enforcement officials, then pushed back across the border to Turkey,” the group said.
Testimonies for beatings, threats and police abuse towards refugees coming through Bulgaria were also reported in November by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights.
Bulgarian authorities need to take urgent steps to stop the unlawful treatment of people who seek protection and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch urged.
Bulgaria’s interior ministry spokeswoman said forceful returns or improper treatment of asylum seekers were not part of the country’s policy towards refugees and every reported case was being investigated.
“We do not have such policy and we do not tolerate it. Every signal we receive for an abuse we do investigate,” she said.
Bulgaria has struggled to handle the influx of refugees and refugees since World War Two with more than 1 million entering last year, but being EU’s poorest member state, many refugees prefer to continue their journey to wealthier western countries.