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Bulgaria uses police dogs, violence in refugee pushbacks: HRW

Human Rights Watch says Bulgaria is using police dogs and other violence to illegally push refugees back into Turkey.

An international rights group says Bulgarian authorities are attacking Afghan and other asylum seekers, using police dogs and other violence to illegally push them back over the border into Turkey.

Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that the refugees reported being beaten, robbed and stripped.

“Bulgarian authorities are brutally and summarily pushing back migrants and asylum-seekers across the land border with Turkey,” said Michelle Randhawa, refugee and migrant rights officer at HRW.

“The European Union should ensure that Bulgaria immediately stops the illegal and dehumanising pushbacks at its borders and allows asylum-seekers access to fair asylum procedures.”

Bulgaria’s government did not respond to HRW’s report. But officials have previously denied mistreating refugees.

Victims

HRW said it interviewed 15 Afghans between November and April last year who told the organisation that they were “victims of 19 pushbacks by Bulgarian authorities from Bulgaria to Turkey”.

In November last year, Bulgaria’s defence ministry said it was deploying troops and army vehicles along its border with Turkey to help border police deal with a growing number of refugees trying to enter the country.

The Balkan country of seven million is located on a major route for refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan to Europe.

Only a small number of them plan to stay in the EU’s poorest member, using Bulgaria instead as a transit corridor on their way westward.


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