Thursday

28th May 2020

Bulgaria sends soldiers to Turkey border

  • The European Commission says external border control is the competences of the national governments. (Photo: 7armyjmtc)

Bulgaria is preparing to send up to 1,000 soldiers to beef up security on its 259-kilometre land border with Turkey, the government said Thursday (17 September).

“Today we shall probably send more than 50 additional troops. We are ready to increase them to 160 within the day,” defence minister Nikolai Nenchev told press.

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“The total number of military the ministry is ready to help border police with is 1,000”.

The announcement follows reports that columns of Syrian migrants are walking from Istanbul to Edirne, on the western side of the Bosphorus, where Turkey borders Bulgaria.

Georgi Kostov, a senior Bulgarian interior ministry official, said about 700 people tried to cross from Turkey to Bulgaria in the past 24 hours.

Border police arrested 34 of them and the rest went back. Police arrested another 39 people trying to cross from Bulgaria to Serbia en route to western Europe.

“Our steps should be interpreted only as a move to support our Turkish colleagues in their efforts [to enforce border rules]”, Kostov added.

“We have the forces to tackle the migration pressure. And the fact that Bulgaria isn’t the preferred route of the migrants, even though it’s a natural route, speaks volumes about our actions”.

Bulgaria earlier increased border police forces and built a 30-kilometre razor-wire fence on its boundary with Turkey.

It took the action after seeing a 470-percent rise in irregular crossings between mid-2012 and 2014.

The border clampdown prompted refugees, many of whom come from camps in Turkey, to switch their main route to Greece, the Western Balkans, and central Europe.

Turkey currently hosts some 2 million Syrian refugees.

Bulgaria hosts 15,000 refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is the EU’s poorest member state and has a population of 7.2 million, 10 percent of whom are Muslim.

Thursday’s announcement on sending military units to the border comes after similar measures by Austria, Croatia, and Hungary.

The European Commission has declined to comment on the action, saying the measures fall under national competence.

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