Bulgaria’s capacity to host refugees ‘exhausted’, official says

The capacity of Bulgaria to host refugees is exhausted, an official said, as figures emerged showing that the country is facing the largest wave of illegal refugees in 20 years.

In the first seven months of 2013, the number of illegal migrants detected crossing the border from Turkey into Bulgaria is six times higher than in the first seven months of 2012.

By the end of July 2013, close to 2400 illegal migrants had attempted to enter Bulgaria illegally. Of these, 2320 had applied for asylum at the State Agency for Refugees. This latter number is expected to increase to 3000 by the end of the year, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said on August 20.

With refugee camps in Turkey already overcrowded, many refugees pay large sums to smugglers to get them over the border into EU country Bulgaria.

The head of the representative office of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Bulgaria, Boris Cheshirkov, said that such transactions often happen in the Turkish town of Edirne, where smugglers agree to take small groups of would-be refugees to Bulgaria. However, what often happens is that the group is left several kilometres from the Bulgarian border, and told to make its own way into the country.

Bulgaria’s Border Police were doing all they could to stem the problem, BNT said.

Milen Penev, deputy director of the Border Police directorate, said that at border crossings, special devices were in place to check vehicles for concealed people, a device that he said was called “beating heart” equipment.

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(Photo: European Parliament)