Bulgaria has held more than 200 would-be illegal immigrants so far this year

The latest arrest by Bulgarian border police of would-be illegal migrants, six people who said they were from Syria and Palestine, brings the number of people attempting illegal border crossings into Bulgaria to more than 230.

The warmer weather is seeing an increase in the number of attempts at illegal migration.

Between January and the end of April 2013, the number of people detained was about 98, going by statements by Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry.

Between the beginning of May and June 4, the total was 116.

In line with the trends of months, many of those attempting illegal entry are from Syria, currently seized by widespread violence under the Assad regime.

On June 4, Bulgarian border police from Svilengrad detained four illegal immigrants – three men and a woman, accompanied by two boys, aged four and eight. The boys were the children of one of the men, who told border police that his wife had died after their home in Syria was bombarded.

While the illegal immigrants said that they were from Palestine and Syria, border police later established that one of the men was Algerian. The immigrants said that in Turkey, they had been told to claim a nationality that would get them refugee status more easily.

On May 30, the Interior Ministry said that border police at Boliarovo had arrested three Syrian nationals, two men and a woman. Two of the adults, from Aleppo, were accompanied by children aged five, nine and 11. The two adults said that their house had been destroyed in the war in Syria.

They had fled to Turkey from Istanbul, where a smuggler had charged them $300 a head to take them to the Bulgarian border.

On May 28, border police at the Elhovo checkpoint detained four undocumented men, who said they were from Syria and Tunisia. A few hours later, three other men were detained, who were from Algeria and Palestine, the ministry said.

At Elhovo on May 21, an inspection of car in which two men from the Bulgarian town of Razgrad were travelling found a 21-year-old Syrian citizen hiding in the boot of the vehicle. The same day, border police said that they had held nine illegal immigrants near the village of Malomirovo. The group had no identity documents but apparently were from Egypt, Sudan and Ghana, the Interior Ministry said.

On May 19, more than 40 border police using a helicopter and off-road vehicles rescued a group of 11 illegal immigrants – eight men, a woman and two children, aged one and two – who had got into distress in a rugged woodland area on a slope near the village of Krainovo in the Yambol region.

The group were dehydrated and exhausted and the children in a particular severe condition, with fever. None of the group had had anything to eat or drink for three days. They were given emergency medical treatment. Seven were from Syria and one from Morocco. They told border police that a Turkish people smuggler had directed them towards the Bulgarian border, but along the way they had got lost.

On May 18, border police held a group of illegal immigrants – three men, a woman and four children. They were undocumented but said that they were from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Earlier the same day, at about 4am, border police detained four illegal immigrants who were without papers but said that they were from Tunisia.

On May 17, border police arrested six men and seven women, all without identity documents. The adults were accompanied by 10 children. Members of the group said that they were from Syria, Somalia and Nigeria.

The same day, a group of six men without identity documents were arrested. One said that he was from Somalia, and the others said that they were from Yemen, Morocco and Iraq.

On May 14, 15 people from Somalia and two from Afghanistan were discovered by border police in Vidin, concealed in a lorry being driven from Greece to Slovakia by a 44-year-old Romanian. The group included three women and two children.

The lorry was carrying two large marble blocks that had been loaded in Greece. Border police selected the truck for x-ray inspection and found that the blocks had been hollowed out and there were 17 people inside, 10 in one block and seven in the other. Access to the hollowed-out hiding places in the blocks was through a specially-designed opening in the floor of the vehicle.

The group was held and the Romanian arrested. A follow-up investigation led to the arrests of two Slovak and two Greek nationals.

On May 12, border police at Elhovo held a group of nine men and a woman without identity documents and who were accompanied by five children. They said that they were from Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Jordan and Iraq while the five children belonged to the family of a man and a woman from Syria.

The previous day, near Elhovo in the village of Chernozem, border police detained nine undocumented men, who said that they were from Mali, Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda, Sudan and Liberia.

On April 25, border police detained 12 illegal immigrants near the Turkish border, seven men and five women, accompanied by six children. The same day, border police from Elhovo detained six illegal immigrants, five from Libya and one from Algeria, who said that they had intended to seek work in Western European countries.

• In a report released by the European Commission on June 3 on the situation at the European Union’s external Schengen borders, it was said that from October-December 2012, about 13 600 irregular border crossings were detected, which was a 52 per cent reduction compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.

• While Greece reported more than half of all detections of irregular border crossing from July-September 2012, this situation changed in August 2012, when Greece redeployed about 1800 border guards at its land border with Turkey. From October-December 2012, Italy reported 31 per cent of all detections (4231 people), followed by Greece, reporting 30 per cent of the detections (4035 people).

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The Sofia Globe staff

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