Bulgaria says ready to protect border with Turkey
SOFIABulgaria said March 18 that it was ready to boost patrols and finish a fence along its southeastern frontier with Turkey in an effort to hold off any new influx of migrants.
The pledge comes as Turkey is in separate rows with Bulgaria and the EU, raising worries Ankara could allow a rush of asylum seekers across the border.
“We are ready to protect the country’s border in the way provided for in our legislation,” AFP quoted Bulgarian Defense Minister Stefan Yanev as saying on a visit to the border town of Malko Tarnovo.
The government in Sofia summoned Turkey’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Turkey for consultations on March 16.
Ankara has also been locked in a wider row with the European Union after several bloc members prevented Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of an April 16 constitutional referendum.
As a result, Ankara has threatened to scupper a 2016 deal with the EU to brake the flow of migrants entering the bloc.
This could become a major problem for Bulgaria, which shares a 270-kilometre (165-mile) border with Turkey and would be on the frontline of a new migrant wave.
“The aim of our visit is to inspect the new protective barriers and assess and update the plans for protecting the border,” Yanev said March 18.
Bulgaria had already built over 200 kilometers of razor-wire topped fences to halt an influx of Syrian, Afghan and other migrants last year and Yanev said that another 24 kilometers of barriers would be ready by May.
Several hundred border police and an additional 200 army officers were also dispatched to patrol along the frontier even if migrant numbers registered a sharp drop compared to last year, he added.
Meanwhile, Over 2,000 people demonstrated in the Greek capital in support of migrants and refugees on March 18, calling for an end to the EU’s year-old migrant pact with Turkey that cracked down on migrant flows.
“Cancel EU-Turkey deal of shame,” read the banner at the head of the procession marching through the streets of Athens toward the European Commission offices, near the Greek parliament building.
The protest, organized by leftist, anti-racist and migrant organizations, was also attended by refugees and migrants, notably from Syria and Afghanistan, many with their children.