A number of passengers on a flight to Sofia earlier this week got a peek at what it was like to fly inside the Schengen area, with no passport checks on arrival. The incident, which was caused by all border police officers at Sofia Airport passport check booths leaving their post, was under investigation, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said on March 23.
The statement said that the border police officers were under disciplinary investigation for “being tardy with checking passengers arriving on a flight from France on March 20. As a result, some of the passengers were not processed.”
No one on the passenger list had travel restrictions or was on the wanted list, the ministry statement said.
Although the Interior Ministry gave no further details, reports in Bulgarian media said that it was a flight from Paris, which arrived on the afternoon of March 20. News website Mediapool, which said it had obtained the incident report, reported that border police officers left their posts after processing a flight from Prague and were absent for about 15 minutes.
The incident report, which described footage from the security cameras, said that one employee had noticed passengers passing through without having their IDs checked, but made no effort to stop them or seek out those that had passed through already.
Several minutes later, the border police officers were back at their post and carried out the passport checks for the remaining passengers, the incident report said.
Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio said that an estimated 40 people had passed through without having their passports looked at.
Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union since 2007 and its citizens do not require visas to travel within the bloc, but it is not part of the Schengen visa-free travel area. Although the country has met the technical criteria years ago, there is political opposition from some member states that believe authorities in Sofia have not done enough to fight organised crime and corruption.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)