Bulgaria to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border
Bulgaria is to provide humanitarian assistance in the form of tents, beds, blankets and heating fuel to refugees and migrants stranded at the border between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, the government media office said in Sofia on March 11 2016.
The aid is being provided on the orders of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and the Cabinet chief of staff has been assigned the co-ordination of delivery.
The assistance is being provided from the stocks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Fire Safety and Population Protection directorate.
Many thousands of people are stranded at the border, with conditions deteriorating amid heavy rain and poor living conditions, raising the risk of a humanitarian crisis.
The government media statement said that Bulgaria repeatedly had expressed support and solidarity towards its neighbouring countries, while calling on everyone to respect their commitments and obligations regarding border security and the proper movement of migrants.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, who is to attend a March 14 meeting of EU foreign ministers, said on March 11 that Bulgaria would insist on avoiding the opening of new migration routes in the wake of the closure of the “Balkan Route” for migration.
Mitov said that for the moment, there was nothing regarding the situation on the borders with Turkey and Greece in relation to the refugee wave that could be a risk to Bulgaria.
He reiterated that the final version of an agreement between the EU and Turkey on migration control should also guarantee the security of Bulgaria’s borders.
Mitov said that Bulgarian-Turkish groups would on begin preparations for the signing of a bilateral readmission agreement on March 15 and 16.
An early warning system had been agreed with Greece that if there was evidence of increased migratory pressure towards Bulgaria’s border, an alert would be issued.
Mitov said that after the closing of the Balkan Route, “no one was immune” but he did not think there was currently any cause for concern.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev, speaking on March 11, said that the situation on Bulgaria’s borders was calm and there was no sign of refugees redirecting towards the country’s border.
The Defence Ministry was doing everything possible to monitor the situation, not only regarding Bulgaria’s borders but also regarding refugee centres, so as to be able to take action if the situation changed.
Nenchev said that the situation in Greece, where there were an estimated 36 000 refugees, was “exceptionally difficult” and the situation in Macedonia also was difficult. Serbia’s closing of its borders had shut down the Balkan Route.
“At the time, the situation at our border is calm,” Nenchev reiterated.
(Photo: Jamie Dettmer/VOA)