New dynamics in migration pressure towards Bulgaria possible

Photo: BGNES

Caretaker PM Ognyan Gerdzhikov declared on Tuesday night the taking of additional security measures along the Bulgarian-Turkish border, as some influx of migrants is presumed over the next few days. Obviously the situation is very serious, because the premier has discussed it with the interior minister, the heads of SANS and the special services. It is sure that all this is due to the latest tensions between Turkey and some European countries and the related threats that Ankara might review its agreements with the EU for blocking land migration pressure towards West Europe. Last year we witnessed similar threats by the Turkish state and then Sofia called on the EU and NATO to be ready with a B plan, in case Turkey opened its border for over 3 mln. refugees and migrants from Syria and Iraq, accommodated on its territory. However, now the situation is quite different.

On one hand the tension between the EU and Turkey has increased immensely, including the highest diplomatic level. On the other, Sofia and Ankara have been exchanging accusations over the past days in relation to the forthcoming early elections. Unlike last year’s situation, now a caretaker government is in charge in Bulgaria and its authority is limited, as it has been appointed by the president and not elected by parliament.

The migration picture in Bulgaria is now different as well. The number of migrants has decreased in a significantly and thousands have left the receiving centers of the interior ministry and the accommodation camps of the State Agency for Refugees over the past 6 months. The centers’ capacity was exceeded by some 59% end-September 2016 and now those are barely 86% full. The refugee camps, 106% overcrowded till recently, are now 40% empty. However, the thousands that have escaped from the accommodation centers of Bulgaria have reached West Europe and now it wants to send them back. According to the annual report of the refugee agency, requests for 11,545 people were sent in 2016 and under the Dublin Regulation those were supposed to be in Bulgaria. 3,551 of those requests were from Germany, 2,094 from Austria, 1,808 from Hungary, 1,096 from France and 366 requests came from Great Britain. If the readmissions of migrants from West Europe coincide with a new influx of tens of thousands over the land border with Turkey, the situation might get out of control. It could get even more complicated if emigration concerns due to the internal political tensions in Turkey become reality – local opponents of the regime are treated as ‘terrorists’ or ‘non-Turks’. A respected Bulgarian expert who has had serious consular responsibilities in the neighboring country has warned these days that Sofia should get prepared for a wave of refugees from Turkey. The election campaign also felt concerns on the subject and those found their expression in appeals for immediate actions on the sending of European forces along the southern border. The new recent developments of the subject testify on another dramatic dynamics, regarding the migrant pressure risks towards Bulgaria.

English version: Zhivko Stanchev

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