Bulgarian Defence Minister admits ladders being used to climb over fence at border with Turkey
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov admitted in a television interview on October 20 that ladders were being used to climb over the country’s fence at the Turkish border, built at huge expense to prevent illicit entry to the country.
The Bulgarian government has come under sustained opposition criticism for several months about the fence. Officials recently said that the fence had been significantly damaged by heavy rainfall, while photos have been circulated not only of people climbing over the fence, but also showing a large hole underneath it.
Karakachanov said in the October 20 interview that people-trafficking was continuing because of corruption among border guards.
“There is a ladder, there is trafficking in human beings, we have to solve the problem of illegal migrants and the corruption that makes this happen, but it is laughable to ask for the resignation of a deputy prime minister and a minister because the fence was declared a strategic site for national security,” he said.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party has called for the resignations of Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, of the United Patriots minority partner in government, of which Karakachanov is also a co-leader, and Interior Minister Valentin Radev of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party.
Karakachanov said that he had called two years ago for the fence to be declared a strategic site for national security so that the army could be deployed to guard the border.
BSP MP Elena Yoncheva distributed visual images of the state of the fence. Karakachanov asked whether it would have been possible for Yoncheva to have filmed the fence from the Turkish side, or what would happen to someone filming border security areas in other European countries.
In their campaign over the fence and the calls for the resignations, the BSP was trying to create a distraction from its own internal problems, he said. Recent days have seen open in-fighting and expressions from within the BSP over the performance of party leader Kornelia Ninova.
Work on the fence at the Turkish border began amid the 2013 sharp increase in refugees reaching Bulgaria, largely as a result of the war in Syria. At the time, a government put in office on a Bulgarian Socialist Party ticket was in place. Work on the fence has continued under the Borissov governments that followed.
Bulgaria’s government has repeatedly insisted that it is effectively protecting an EU external border. The BSP has accused it of covering up the true situation.
Meanwhile, on October 20, Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Sterk said that one of the priorities of Bulgaria’s 2018 Presidency of the Council of the European Union would be the fight against trafficking in human beings, a Foreign Ministry statement said.