The head of Bulgaria’s Border Police, Milen Penev, has been demoted, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio said on April 28.
Penev has been in the post since February 23 2015, after having been appointed deputy head of the Border Police in August 2014.
Reports on April 28 said that he was being reassigned to head the Border Police section in charge of airports.
Bulgarian National Television said that Penev’s successor would be Antonio Angelov, outgoing head of the Sofia “criminal police” division.
Penev became head of the Border Police after the dismissal of his predecessor over a fatal incident at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, in which a vehicle carrying members of the Border Police overturned. The vehicle had been unsuitable for use in the harsh road conditions.
The BNR report said that it was not clear why Penev was facing ousting as head of the Border Police, but the possibility could not be ruled out that it was in connection with criticism of the work of the Border Police and in connection with the campaign to counter smuggling.
The report came a day after 83 Bulgarian military personnel were deployed to provide logistical assistance to Border Police at the border with Turkey.
The military deployment, expected to cost the Defence Ministry more than two million leva during the six-month operation, will be stepped up if the number of illegal migrants arriving across the Turkish border increases.
More than 5000 illegal immigrants have been detained crossing into Bulgaria since the start of 2015.
Recent months have seen high-profile operations directed against cross-border smuggling.
On April 9, police, anti-organised crime officers and Customs Agency staff took part in an anti-smuggling operation at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint at the Turkish border. In an earlier anti-smuggling operation, 13 customs officers and three Border Police were arrested.
On April 28, 19 customs staff at Kapitan Andreevo were dismissed, following the dismissal of six a day earlier.
In January, reports said that most of the Border Police at the Kapitan Petko Voivoda checkpoint at the Greek border were under investigation in connection with allegedly accepting bribes to allow through people being trafficked.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has reiterated on various occasions in recent weeks that he wants to see an improved performance in customs and excise revenue and against smuggling.