Border Police and military personnel from Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia began on March 18 a joint exercise aimed at practising responding to a scenario in which migration pressure rises sharply, along with an increase in people-trafficking.
The exercise was announced on the late morning of March 18, and followed a telephone conversation on the issue between Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov the day before.
It is the second time in recent weeks that Bulgaria has deployed police and military together in a border security training exercise. The training operation is called Border 2016 and the March 18 exercise is being officially labelled a continuation of the operation.
Bulgarian military personnel would practice setting up a temporary base and patrolling the border.
The army personnel will carry weapons during the exercise, but arrests and searches will be left to Border Police.
The commander of one of the military units, Colonel Ivan Ivanov, told local media: “We have weapons, but this is not a combat mission against us, there are people fleeing from war, however there are people with extreme behaviour and the issue about the use of a weapon is a sensitive one. We cannot ignore the fact that we will be dealing with mothers with children and infants”.
The training involves dealing with riots, the detention of violent migrants and medical evacuation of wounded people.
Currently, Bulgaria is not facing any increased movement of asylum-seekers towards its borders.
The exercise was being observed by Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova and Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev, who were to hold a joint meeting with their counterparts from Skopje.