Compared to 2015, the reduction in traffic of refugees to Bulgaria is down by about 36 per cent, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova said on April 13.
Speaking in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Buchvarova said that the reduction was due to the efforts the country was making at the border.
The Border Police carried out its duties within the framework of the opportunities available. The absence of a massive and uncontrollable influx of foreign nationals was proof of this, said Buchvarova, who also is one of the deputy prime ministers in Bulgaria’s centre-right coalition government.
“It is very important in a situation where we are all concerned and that threatens our national security, to trust the Border Police and the Interior Ministry,” Buchvarova said.
She said that Bulgaria is ready, should the number of refugees increase, to deploy more forces at the border, including the military, and to act in accordance with the law.
Asked whether there were gaps in border security, which was why “civilian patrols” were appearing, Buchvarova issued an assurance that the Border Police carried out their duties according to the possibilities available.
The question was a reference to the controversial appearance of self-appointed vigilante groups, referred to as “migrant hunters” or “refugee hunters”, who have been conducting roundups of people who have crossed into Bulgaria from its border with Turkey. Arrests and prosecutions of people involved in the round-ups, whom critics have dismissed as minor gangsters seized by a false patriotism and who are usurping the role of legitimate authorities, have ensued.
Buchvarova said that border security was one of the main responsibilities of the Interior Ministry and “essential work that we have been doing for a long time”.
The absence of a “massive and uncontrolled invasion by foreign nationals” showed that the Border Police were doing well, she said.
“It is not always enough, because we cannot ensure a presence along the entire length of the border,” Buchvarova said. “That is why we sought the possibility of co-operating in joint patrols and actions with the Defence Ministry.”
Trusting the Border Police and the Interior Ministry would be very helpful, not only regarding law enforcement, but “the whole situation,” she said. “Trust is what we lack more than lack of funds,” Buchvarova said.
She would neither confirm nor deny that the group arrested on April 12, in which Petar “The Feathers” Nizamov was involved, was involved in illegal activities, including people-trafficking.
But Buchvarova expressed concern that even if this particular group is not involved, it might give rise to other people engaging in such acts.
“So we want to introduce rules of conduct, which we have already done. We are giving instructions to citizens on how to respond when encountering foreigners at the border, so we can act most effectively. I do not want to accuse anyone before the prosecution has decided on this case,” Buchvarova said, referring to Nizamov’s arrest.
She said that the migrants shown in the amateur video, that has made headlines in recent days for its depiction of their being forced to the ground, tied up and shouted at in broken English to “go Turkey” were currently being treated by authorities in the same way as all refugees who had crossed the border illegally. It was up to prosecutors to decide whether any action against them should be taken, she said.