Bulgarian border police have detained a Syrian family, of two adults and two young boys, near the Bulgarian – Turkish border, the latest of a series of detentions of would-be illegal immigrants since the start of 2013.
The detention of the family on April 22 brings the number of attempted illegal immigrants held near Bulgaria’s land borders to more than 80 so far in 2013, going by statements issued since January by the Interior Ministry.
In some cases, people were found concealed in vehicles while others were detected using thermal imaging or after reports from eyewitnesses. In several cases, the people attempting illegal entry – many from Syria, other Middle Eastern countries and Africa – had paid large sums of money to nationals of countries ranging from Turkey to Croatia to transport them across the border and seek to smuggle them onwards, most likely to Western Europe.
The number of illegal crossings into Bulgaria increased in 2012, but off a low base and still low in comparison to those encountered in countries such as Greece and Italy, going by official figures from Sofia.
From the short summaries in Interior Ministry media statements, stories that are poignant and that reflect the fallout from the large-scale violence in countries such as Syria under the Assad regime emerge.
The Syrian family held on April 22, taken into custody after Border Police followed up a tip-off from locals, included two boys, aged seven and eight. According to the Interior Ministry, the man said that they were from the city of Aleppo and had had a home and a shop there, but these had been destroyed in the fighting.
The same day, three further illegal migrants were detained near the same village close to the Bulgarian-Turkish borders, an Algerian and two Syrians who did not have identity documents. The Algerian told Border Police that his goal was to find a job in France.
The men were detained at Elhovo border police station. The Syrian woman and the two boys were accommodated in a centre for mothers with children at the police station.
On April 12, Bulgarian Border Police from the Malko Turnovo police station said that the previous night they had detained eight Syrians and the two Turkish nationals who had been accompanying them. The Syrians had paid the Turks from about 2500 to 3000 euro each, depending on the final destination in the European Union: Germany, Austria and Greece, the Interior Ministry said.
Earlier in April, four Syrian adults and two children were detained by Border Police from the Elhovo station. On April 4, Elhovo police arrested a group near a village, two men from Cameroon and Mali and a Syrian family, including two children, boys aged about 10.
At the end of March, two Palestinians were found in a lorry at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint with Turkey, while separately, after a report of a group of people near the Bulgarian – Turkish border, police detained eight Syrians who were hiding in an abandoned building near the border.
On March 22, at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint, two Turkish citizens and four Syrians were arrested in two separate incidents. In the first incident, an inspection of a lorry driven by a Turkish citizen found Syrians clinging to the vehicle’s axles. Thirty minutes later, another lorry was inspected, and Syrians also found hanging on the axles. Both lorries were the property of the same Turkish company, the Interior Ministry said, and were bound for Germany and France, respectively.
On March 22, the Interior Ministry said that Border Police had held two men and two women without identity documents, but who were Syrian citizens. They were accompanied by two boys, aged four and 10, and a girl of nine. An initial medical examination by a doctor at the Elhovo station found that the 10-year-old boy had a broken foot while the four-year-old had a scar from recent surgery, apparently to remove shrapnel from a bombing.
On March 14, close to the Bulgarian – Serbian border, Border Police arrested three Algerians and a Moroccan, after thermal imaging detected a group of people. The group was accompanied by a Bulgarian and had documentation showing them to be asylum applicants in Bulgaria, the Interior Ministry said.
The same day, at the Bulgarian – Turkish border, a tip-off from a resident of a village led to Border Police detaining two women, two men and six children. The adults had Syrian identification documents.
Meanwhile, near Malko Turnovo, two women and two men were held, claiming to be Palestinian citizens. However, one was in possession of an expired Iranian passport and one of the group told police that he was Iranian.
On February 27, Border Police arrested three Croatians and 10 people – five men, two women and three boys – after checking a caravan and finding a specially-built secret compartment under one of the beds. Some of the illegal immigrants had Syrian documents, the Interior Ministry said.
A day earlier, a patrol from the Elhovo station detained a group of adults and children who said that they were from Syria. The children included a boy of 16 and girls aged three and five. The father of the family told Border Police that he had agreed to pay 10 000 euro to be smuggled from Turkey into Bulgaria.
On February 25, 10 people were held in separate actions. Found through thermal imaging, the group included people from Syria, Palestine and Mali. The previous night, in the village of Kapitan Andreevo, a 35-year-old Syrian with two children was arrested.
On February 24, police arrested two men who were seen leaving the road to walk into woodland instead of heading for the Bulgarian – Serbian border. The men were Algerians who had entered Bulgaria illegally at the end of 2012, had applied for refugee status, but in the February incident had rented a taxi in Sofia and sought to cross the border into Serbia.
On February 7, the day that was reported to have seen the largest number of detentions of illegal immigrants in Bulgaria so far in 2013, a total of 25 people were taken into custody. Of these, 19 were from Africa.
The group was arrested after having been seen by a resident near Lesovo. Of the Africans, most said that they were from Mali, but according to the Interior Ministry, investigators said that people tended to state this to use the situation in that country to apply for refugee status. Most of the group had intended heading for France, the ministry said.
The group told Border Police that some of them had arrived in Turkey by ship. The group had formed in Istanbul and travelled to the Bulgarian border by bus. The man who had agreed to lead the group had abandoned them there, they said.
On February 6, three other undocumented Africans were detained. Two said that they were from Togo and one said that he was from Mali. Elsewhere, four illegal immigrants without papers were detained, claiming to be Palestinians.
On January 24, Border Police inspecting a lorry being driven by a Bulgarian from Turkey t Germany found two men without identification. The discovery was made after using equipment that found elevated carbon dioxide levels, out of proportion to what the readings of the truck should have been. The two men said that they were from Afghanistan. One said that he wanted to go to Sweden and the other had intended trying to reach Finland. The driver was charged with people trafficking.
In mid-January, Border Police using surveillance equipment after receiving a tip-off arrested eight illegal immigrants, who said that they were from Syria. Also arrested was a 38-year-old man, a holder of dual Bulgarian and Turkish citizenship, who was charged with people trafficking, the Interior Ministry said.
(Photos: Interior Ministry press centre)