Sixty military personnel from a Blagoevgrad-based unit were continuing to assist Border Police teams at the Kulata checkpoint at Bulgaria’s border with Greece, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence said on May 30.
The military personnel were deployed after a plan for joint action by the Ministry of Interior and Defence Ministry was activated on May 28, the statement said.
The military were carrying out foot and mechanised patrols, staffing observation posts and maintaining a rapid reaction force for deployment in critical areas, the Defence Ministry said.
So far, 30 mechanised and 26 foot patrols had been carried out and there were 12 observation posts.
The military were deployed the same day that it was announced that two groups of people had attempted to illegally cross the border from Greece into Bulgaria in the area for which Border Police headquartered in Petrich were responsible.
One of the groups entered Bulgaria across the border not far from Kulata checkpoint and the other was found in a goods train coming from Greece. The two groups, together adding up to 96 people, reportedly were found using heartbeat detector equipment.
Both groups were detained and the first was returned to Greece within a day, in terms of international agreements on return. The other group was to be returned within the next few days, officials said on May 29.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, speaking on May 29 after a specially-called meeting of senior officials including the interior minister and Border Police chief, said that Bulgarian and Greek authorities had demonstrated the “fastest readmission of illegal migrants in Europe”.
There were many women and children in the groups, including babies just two to three months old, and humanitarian aid has been provided for them, including food, milk and everything else essential, Borissov said.
Borissov’s comments were an apparent response to repeated criticism by international human rights groups that Bulgaria was violating the human rights of migrants and refugees.
All vehicles at the Kulata checkpoint were undergoing detailed checks, especially lorries and minibuses travelling from Greece to Bulgaria, which was slowing traffic through the border, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported on May 29.
(Photos: Ministry of Defence, Bulgaria)