I prefer to go back to Congo than to Bulgaria

Recently, we’ve received several testimonies by persons who were going to be deported to Bulgaria because of the Dublin law (an asylum seeker must be repatriated to the first Schengen country where he landed). However, a lot of information exist concerning the extremely violent treatments reserved to foreigners in that country and the degrading living conditions in the centres for asylum seekers.

Here are a few testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch:

‘We are treated as less than second class citizens. They are extremely racist. They spit in our face and treat us like animals. On that day, everything started when a guard wanted a man to eat like a dog, serving his food on the floor. First, it was only the local guards who were beating us but then they were more than 50 people, some of them coming from a village, wearing civilian clothes. They beat me in the back with a police baton.’

‘I was beaten on the ribs and chest. Many people got injured and they were not taken care of. A chef in civilian clothes came. He noticed the problem but he was drunk. I could smell the alcohol. He beat my friend in the stomach with a police baton. He took him to another room to beat him. They didn’t bring him to a hospital. The police broke the arm of another friend of mine.’

You may read other testimonies in English and look at pictures of the living conditions in the open centres for asylum seekers here:
http://www.hrw.org/node/124800/section/10
http://www.hrw.org/node/124800/section/11

Here is another testimony by a person retained in the closed centre 127bis. Some information come from discussions we’ve had with him on the phone and from his audio testimony you may listen to here:

Testimony audio here (FR)

Psychologically, we already are terrorised because they are telling us that we are in a closed centre but in fact it is a prison. In the afternoon we get two hours outside, and after we return to our cells, it really is a prison. I did not think that in a country that proclaims itself democratic one could imprison people like animals under the pretext that we come from another country.

I entered Bulgaria on the 25th, they registered me on the 26th. I was arrested at the border by the Bulgarian police. Then I was interviewed by Frontex agents, they were asking questions to check whether I really was Congolese.

They brought me to what they call a ‘closed centre’ but it is a prison. I stayed there for two months. I had to pay my lawyer 100 EUR for him to find me an address in Sofia. They released me and I went to Sofia. I didn’t know anyone but I met other Congolese people and I hid in a social centre in Sofia.

In Sofia they were much more interested by Syrians, so I had to manage by myself. I was hiding. When there were controls I was hiding in the toilets of the social centre so that the wardens would not kick me out.

On 5th January, the Bulgarian police came to arrest the black people who were in the centre. I was lucky because I hid and they could not find me. They kicked out the others and beat them, spitting in their face.

I collected the images. One of my friends knew people in France 24 and the journalists wanted someone to testify. I gave them the elements and they interviewed me by webcam. If you browse “le raid de la police bulgare sur les immigrés africains” you will see my story and the images where black people were being beaten.
These videos used to be online but they are not available anymore…

After these events, a lawyer was helping us. The people of France24 raised questions, hence the authorities wanted to know who had given them the images. My Ivorian friend who was in good terms with the leader of the centre warned me he had told him it was me who had given them the images.
I went to see the lawyer and she advised me to leave Bulgaria because she could feel bad things would happen. I went to see the Bulgarian pastor who welcomed me at his place before I could leave Bulgaria for Serbia.
Personally I didn’t want to leave Bulgaria, I left it under coercion.

You may read the article of France 24 here:http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/20140213-africains-migrants-police-raid-bulgarie-refugie-centre-asile

And now they want to bring you back to Bulgaria?
Yes that’s what they want and I really fear for my life. I contacted the journalist of France 24. She contacted the General Commission for Refugees. She certified that it was me who had done the interview and given the images, hence I’ll go to jail when I go back to Bulgaria.

In fact, I first went to the Office to introduce an asylum request, I was fingerprinted etc and the day I was supposed to get an answer and have an interview they imprisoned me. They just told me: ‘we’ve seen that you passed through Bulgaria although you are of Congolese origin, how did you get to Bulgaria?’ I said I was forced to leave Congo because my father was a captain in North Kivu, so they made me leave Congo and that’s how I arrived to Turkey. Friends of my father came to Istanbul to help me cross Europe to reach Bulgaria. That is where I got arrested. I was in jail there for three months and then they released me.

I explained all this to the people of the Office but they said it was OK, that Belgium has signed agreements so I would be placed in a closed centre before Bulgaria decided if they wanted me or not.

What is serious is that the Bulgarians lied about my dossier. I was in Bulgaria since 26th September 2013 but the Bulgarians sent the information to the Belgian immigration services that I
had entered Bulgaria on 4th April 2014. In reality, I entered Bulgaria on 25th September 2013 and they took my fingerprints on 26th September. Thus, the only thing I wanted to do was show everybody that the democracy and human rights advocated by the European Union are not really true in all EU countries. There are countries where people are treated like animals, mainly the Africans. In Bulgaria we are treated like animals, it is unfortunate. We are betrayed by the colour of our skin.
Personally, it is not how I imagined human rights, it is exactly the contrary that I am living here.
My future is uncertain, I don’t know where to introduce requests to be recognised. It is the word of an African against the word of the Bulgarians who are all white. I fear more and more for my poor life. What I want is that people know the truth, but this truth turns against me.
For them I am nothing because I’m an African, we are less important than animals. We used to walk by 2 or 3 out of fear of being beaten. I know that prison is expecting me but I cannot be one year in prison for no reason!

I prefer to go back to Congo than to Bulgaria!

Besides, I am sick. I spent more than 7 months in Bulgaria without care. In Belgium I went through a surgery (haemorrhoids problem grade 3). I was supposed to go through a second surgery in Belgium but the doctor of the centre told me I could not because I would have to spend several weeks in the hospital. I bleed everyday when I go to the toilet. They tell me there is nothing they can do. I can show all the evidence that I had an appointment for the surgery, and in Bulgaria they will not do anything. I prefer to die in Congo than here.

You may read the article of France 24 here:http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/20140213-africains-migrants-police-raid-bulgarie-refugie-centre-asile

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