Bulgarian police 'rob and abuse refugees'

Bulgarian police 'rob and abuse refugees'
Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Bulgarian police have robbed and beaten refugees before turning them back to Turkey.
2 min read
21 January, 2016
Police beat and robbed refugees before sending back over the border [AFP]

Bulgarian police robbed and abused migrants and refugees before summarily sending them back to Turkey, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

In a survey by the rights group, refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq described 59 incidents of summary returns from Bulgaria to Turkey between March and November.

Twenty-six people said they had been beaten by Bulgarian police or bitten by police dogs before being sent back over the border, and all but one of the survey's participants reported being robbed, in some cases at gunpoint, by Bulgarian security officials, said HRW.

"Bulgaria needs to end the abuse and unlawful treatment of people seeking protection in Europe," said Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"The Bulgarian government should immediately put a stop to summary returns, investigate allegations of abuse and pushbacks, and hold those responsible to account."

In November, the British charity Oxfam published a report collated by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, in which it accused Bulgarian authorities of brutality towards migrants.

Many reported that in almost all of the countries they passed through, they experienced physical abuse and financial exploitation
- Amnesty International

The report documented similar testimonies of police beatings, dog attacks and extortion by Bulgarian authorities.

Reuters quoted a Bulgarian interior ministry spokeswoman who said her country does not have a policy of forcefully returning refugees and investigates every reported case of abuse.

"We do not have such policy and we do not tolerate it. Every signal we receive for an abuse we do investigate," the spokeswoman said.

On Monday, Amnesty International warned that female asylum seekers faced violence and sexual harassment as they made their journey into Western Europe.

"Many reported that in almost all of the countries they passed through, they experienced physical abuse and financial exploitation, being groped or pressured to have sex by smugglers, security staff or other refugees," Amnesty said.

Hundreds of thousands refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have crossed from Turkey and Greece into Eastern Europe in 2015, on their way to wealthier western European nations.