Bulgaria’s Cabinet is providing a further 44 million leva (about 22.5 million euro) to build a further 61km of fence at the country’s border with Turkey, in an ongoing project against illegal migration.
The facility is crucial to combating the migration pressure at the Bulgarian-Turkish border that has been steadily increasing in recent years. The fence is intended to protect the state border and control the wave of refugees, the government said in a statement after the June 15 meeting.
Even ahead of the Cabinet announcement, the additional spending – on a project that already has consumed more than 100 million leva – was announced by Valeri Simeonov, co-leader of the Patriotic Front, the nationalist coalition that is part of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government agreement.
Controlling illegal migration is a signature issue for the PF and Simeonov, who last month joined Borissov, as well as Bulgar’s interior and defence ministers, on a military helicopter inspection tour of the fence at the Turkish border.
Simeonov, whose coalition’s influence has grown in particular since the socialist breakaway minority party ABC quit Borissov’s government, boasted that he had arranged the additional financing at a meeting with Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov.
The additional funds ensure the completion of the Bulgarian-Turkish border fence project, through erecting a section in the Bourgas region along the Rezovska river.
The fence so far is 130km long and by the end of July, a further 40km will be added.
Simeonov said that on completion, the entire length of the border fence will be about 230 to 240km.
The fence along the border with Turkey is being built with public procurement procedures bypassed through special amendments to the Public Procurement Act. The skirting of a public tender process has been said by the government to be essential because of the urgency of the project, though there is hardly any increase of late in the number of refugees crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria.
The fence project had its beginnings at the time of Bulgaria’s ill-fated 2013/14 administration, when the Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms axis ordered the building of a 30km fence at the Turkish border, in the face of a significant increase in refugees.
That fence was mired in controversy, first for the high price, second for the emergence of irregularities in the awarding of supply contracts, and third for sections being found to be in poor condition not long after completion. The project also was criticised by European and international human rights groups, and was derided as ineffective because refugees simply used other parts of the lengthy Bulgarian-Turkish land border to go around it.
Returning to power in late 2014, the Borissov government proceeded with a large-scale extension of the fence, in turn coming under fire from the BSP – now in opposition – which has been demanding explanations for the even higher price of the fence and about alleged irregularities.