Bulgaria increases patrols at borders as migrants try to reach North Macedonia from Greece

Bulgaria has strengthened its border patrols and is ready to implement a crisis management plan, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told the National Assembly on April 5, amid a developing situation in which about 1000 migrants were trying to reach Greece’s border with North Macedonia.

Migrants, mainly from the Middle East, left the Diavata camp near Thessaloniki, trying to cross into the Republic of North Macedonia, after rumours were spread on social media that they would be able to pass through a border crossing. The movement of migrants has led to clashes with Greek police.

There are more than 70 000 migrants in Greece, who have been there since 2016, a result of the EU-Turkey agreement on stemming migrant flows.

Marinov told Parliament that the migratory pressure from Greece was increasing significantly.

Presenting figures for 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, Marinov said that the numbers were up by six times compared with 2017. Most of those seeking to cross were citizens of Afghanistan, about 41 per cent, and of Iraq, 30 per cent.

“We have sent extra equipment there, including thermal imaging cameras, night vision devices, video surveillance, mobile patrols, so that we can quickly intercept the attempts and quickly communicate with the Greek authorities to stop the attempts to pass illegally on to our territory,” he said.

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry was considering putting up video surveillance at the entrances to villages and towns along the border with some of the funds allocated by the European Union for emergency measures to deal with illegal migration.

Marinov said the information his ministry had was that the migrants from Diavata would try to go to North Macedonia “but we have also taken measures at our borders.

Bulgaria was in constant contact with all its neighbouring countries. “We are following the situation. We have information about the preparation of such processes for a longer time,” he said.

Marinov told Parliament that in recent years there had been a decrease in migration pressure at the Turkish-Bulgarian border, which was the result of intensified border control, good co-ordination among the instituions and the EU-Turkey agreement.



The Sofia Globe staff

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