Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has instructed the ministers of interior and of defence to organise joint exercises in border areas most at risk from illegal migration, specifically mentioning the borders with Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.
Borissov issued the order at a March 2 2016, against a background of a major crisis at the Greek – Macedonian border, where more than 9000 asylum-seekers were stranded, and the fact of the recently-approved amendment to legislation that enables the deployment of Bulgaria’s military to assist border policing.
The aim of the exercise would be to co-ordinate action to deal with migration flows.
Borissov told the two ministers to carry out the exercise “today, tomorrow”, adding that the four-day long weekend beginning on March 3 should be used “because for refugees they are not days of rest”.
“As planned, put them on alert, to see how they work in such conditions, how they work jointly with the border guards,” he said.
“The population, especially down in Petrich, in Sandanski, is already tense,” Borissov said, referring to two Bulgarian towns close to the Greek border. “Listen to the mayors, to the regional governor, get them all together and check how the structures and units work,” he said.
Speaking on March 2, Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev said that the military was ready to support the Interior Ministry at any time, if the refugee crisis made this necessary.
“In regard to the refugee crisis, we can expect anything. I am very much concerned about what is happening in Greece, in Macedonia, in Serbia. I have been following with great concern what is going on there. We are ready at any given time, at which the Interior Ministry requests it, to go to the border and provide full assistance, not only logistical support, but also our soldiers who will patrol, I emphasise, jointly with the Interior Ministry bodies,” Nenchev said.