Open borders groups accuse Bulgarian border guard of abusing migrants

Bulgarian border guards have been accused of turning away and even beating illegal immigrants by open borders activists and others, but Bulgarian authorities deny that any abuse took place.

Diana Dimova, who heads the Bulgarian pro-migration group Mission Wings, said Bulgarian authorities have engaged in increasingly brutal “responses” – namely, returning migrants across a border after crossing, which is illegal under the European Union law.

“Since the beginning of last year, we have seen very intense and brutal reactions from people,” Dimove alleged, broadcaster France 24 reported.

The pro-migration activist is not the only one making accusations of abuse against the Bulgarian authorities, with several migrants claiming to have been subjected to physical attacks by border guards in comments to the AFP news agency.

One Syrian, who claimed to be 16 years old, claimed that after the Bulgarians detained him and put him and others in a fenced area “they divided us into Arabs and Afghans and started beating us. They beat us with batons.

Ali Husseini, a 20-year-old from Afghanistan, alleged that Bulgarian border agents stripped, assaulted and robbed him last year, claiming the police “took us into the woods and took our clothes, including my money, iPad and shoes. … They then opened the fence and sent us to the other side, which was Turkey, one by one.”

Abuse allegations raised in Bulgaria are not new, as last May the NGO Human Rights Watch made allegations that border guards were using police dogs to force migrants back into Turkey.

The EU border agency Frontex, which has also been accused of participating in and covering up resistance in the past, also alleging resistance by Bulgarians in internal reports, and claimed that Frontex agents were deliberately kept at bay.

According to a Frontex official, they experienced “degrading language and racist vocabulary, such as referring to migrants as ‘Taliban’ by some Bulgarian border guards”.

Bulgaria has rejected allegations of abuse and reported seeing a wave of illegal attempts over the past year, disrupting around 164,000 crossing attempts in 2022, up from 55,000 the year before.

“In the last year, the pressure on our border has sharply increased and … the actions of migrants are becoming more and more aggressive,” Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said recently.

Greece, another European Union member state that borders Turkey, has experienced similar violence, with migrants setting fire and launching missiles at Greek officials along the land border between the two countries during mass attacks in 2020.

Some migrants were found to be carrying Turkish-made firearms, with Greeks accusing Turkish authorities of tearing down sections of the border fence, arming migrants with tear gas and even opening fire in the direction of Greek officials to help with crossing attempts.

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has also reported that Turkish agents have been seeded among would-be migrants to incite border riots, with violence easing only as a result of the Wuhan virus pandemic overtaking the 2020 border crisis.

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