Bulgaria strengthens southern border control

Bulgaria Interior Minister Mladen Marinov has announced that security along the country’s southern border with Greece will be tightened in case of a surge in irregular migrants. The announcement was made in response to the flow of migrants from the Greek city of Thessaloniki to Macedonia, following rumours that the border was open for crossing. It led to clashes with Greek police.

On 8 April 2019, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov held a meeting with the interior minister, defence minister and army chiefs. Speaking after the meeting, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said the situation is under control, but security forces was ready to send 3,000 additional personnel to the southern border with Greece.

Marinov added, “We have sent extra equipment there, including thermal imaging cameras, night vision devices, video surveillance, mobile patrols, so that we can quickly intercept the attempts and quickly communicate with the Greek authorities to stop the attempts to pass illegally on to our territory.”

There are more than 70,000 migrants in Greece, many of whom have been there since 2016 after the EU-Turkey agreement on stemming migrant flows. Under the deal, Greece will process all irregular migrants and return them to Turkey. The large number of migrants, along with the lack of resources, means many are trapped there until they can be processed.

Marinov said the number of people trying to enter Bulgaria from Greece has increased six times from 2017. He added that 41 per cent of those irregular migrants are from Afghanistan, while 30 per cent are from Iraq. The border with Greece is widely seen as a threat by the government compared to the border with Turkey due to a wire fence along the 274-kilometre land Bulgarian-Turkish border.

In December 2018, Bulgaria joined several European Union countries in rejecting the United Nations migration compact. It also abstained in a subsequent vote on the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to endorse the pact.

TMP – 23/04/2019

Photo credit: Ju1978 / Shutterstock. Fence and razor wire to deter refugees and asylum seekers in Bulgaria, on Oct 13, 2015