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Bulgaria-Turkey Border Fence

After the Communists came in 1944, the country quickly isolated itself from the rest of the world and became one of the most impenetrable locations in Europe. The country's southern borders with Turkey and Greece, both NATO foes, were quickly fenced off. So were parts of the border with what was then Yugoslavia, also an enemy after Tito fell off with Stalin. Those borders were strictly guarded and border guards were ordered to shoot to kill in case anyone tried to flee. After the fall of Communism the rusting barbed wire in the Strandzha and in the Rhodope was largely abandoned.

Bulgaria is ready to build a fence on its border with Greece to keep out migrants amid fears they could head its way after the Western Balkan route was closed, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said March 25, 2016. Parliament voted in February 2016 to let Bulgaria's army assist police in guarding the European Union member's borders to avoid a refugee influx that has overwhelmed some neighboring countries. Bulgaria shares a border with Greece to its south that is about 500 kilometers (310 miles) long.

By 20 Febraury 2016 all border crossings between Bulgaria and Greece remained closed, because Bulgarian truck drivers began a counter-blockade of the Greek border in response to Greek farmers' blockades staged in protest over their government's pension reform plans.

While in Brussels on 07 March 2016, attending the EU-Turkey summit meeting, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissovhas once again confirmed his position that all outer borders should be shut downin compliance with the Schengen Agreement, meaning that crossing borders should exclusively take place via official border checkpoints.

The government will rebuild the livestock fence on the Turkey border. Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr. Miroslav Naydenov announced 18 January 2011 that that he had talks with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who has approved the measure, and that the government will used money from the state budget to start rebuilding the old barbed wire fence The project is to be discussed with the District Governor of Burgas Konstantin Grebenarov, and the restoration of the fence is supposed to start as soon as the authorities eliminate the cases of FMD in Rezovo. Minister Naydenov said the holders of local hunting tourism estates will not be compensated for any losses from the FMD spread, unlike the owners of domestic animals slaughtered to contain the outbreak of FMD. Hunting ban is a natural measure in such cases, also commented the minister.

A significant effort to start construction was made, cash changed hands, plans were put on the drawing board, but nothing happened. The project was abandoned once the money was safely in the bank accounts of the private companies commissioned to do the job.

In April 2012 the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) government repealed its decision of April 2011, which envisaged the construction of 181-km long protective fence between Bulgaria and Turkey to limit the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease and other communicable animal diseases. In fact, the proposal was based on financial reasons. According to the estimates of the investment project, the total construction value of the facility for the three districts of Burgas, Yambol and Haskovo will be overall BGN 28 mln, VAT included. This amount exceeds four times the budget approved by the Council of Ministers. Besides, additional resources will be necessary for compensating the owners of expropriated real estates as well as funds to maintain and control the facility. The decision was also prompted by the fact that the route passes through nine protected areas for preservation of habitats and birds.

From January to the beginning of December 2013, there were already 11,315 people who crossed the border illegally, 8000 claiming asylum in Bulgaria. Almost all of them – 11,224 – came via Turkey. Syrians were 57 percent, followed by Afghans (16.3 percent), Algerians and Palestinians (with roughly 4 percent each) and Malians (about 3 percent). This is an almost 10 times increase on an year earlier.

The fence along the border with Turkey will be completed in June 2014, Defence Minister Angel Naydenov said 14 May 2014. In October 2013 the government announced plans to build a 30 kilometer fence on its border with Turkey in an area where video surveillance had been ineffective. Data of the Interior Ministry showed the number of illegal immigrants in Bulgaria as of mid-2013 was over 9,500, with some 700 persons being kept detained in Border Police lock-up.

“At the National Security Advisory Council meeting, the Ministry of Defense will present information on the progress of works on roads leading up to the border [with Turkey], where the Bulgarian Army will build a 32 km-long fence facility”, said Minister of Defense Angel Naydenov on Focus Radio 06 November 2013 . He explained that the purpose of such facility is preventing foreign nationals from crossing on Bulgarian territory and directing them to border crossing points.

“We are progressing fast. We have restored and strengthener more roads than initially planned. It is possible to complete this stage of the plan within two weeks and begin construction of the border fence facility as early as November”, Naydenov noted. He said that the construction of the fence will be completed in February 2014 at the latest if accounting for the difficulties that may arise due to winter conditions.

Minister Naydenov described the decision to convene the National Security Advisory Council on November 20 as “logical, albeit overdue” because the number of foreign nationals, residing in Bulgaria is already approaching 9000, the accommodation centers’ capacity has already been exceeded. Furthermore, people in certain towns are protesting against accommodating refugees there and fear is instilled. “All this could have long been assessed, not only by the Security Council with the Council of Ministers, ministries and authorities, but also by political formations, represented in parliament, so we could already have a consolidated national position”, Minister Naydenov said.

The Minister said that the property in the village of Telish, where refugees will be accommodated, is part of the list of 26 properties with over 150 buildings the Ministry of Defense can make available to the State Agency for Refugees. In Telish the Ministry provides 3 properties, totaling over 200 acres. The former missile unit is not part of these properties and is now used by the Ministry of Economy and Economics, Naydenov explained. The State Agency for Refugees will be able to place vans on the area of 200 acres to accommodate people, as the buildings are in poor condition.

As of November 2013, the fence was said to be under construction. But Bulgarian Defense Minister Angel Naydenov revealed 06 January 2014 that the country’s plans to build a fence on part of its border with Turkey have been hit by a serious delay. It was unclear when the facility will be ready, Naydenov told reporters, explaining that the construction has been held back by procedural delays on behalf of the Interior Ministry. The project was expected to be formally approved on December 4 – but this had yet to happen.

The construction of the wire fence at the Bulgarian–Turkish border will begin on January 20, Minister of Defense Angel Naydenov announced January 16, 2014. "The site preparatory work and the construction of the facility will start Monday," Naydenov said. The construction period will stretch over 45-60 days depending on the weather conditions. The facility construction will cost some BGN 9.6M. Bulgaria's army began on October 24 the construction of a 33-km fence that will be used to restrict the number of refugees entering the country from Turkey. The construction began in accordance to a decision made by Bulgarian Government at an extraordinary meeting that was held earlier in October 2013.

The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for protecting refugees. As a result of the increasing number of asylum seekers, which nearly quadrupled since 2012, NGOs reported severe overcrowding and poor conditions in the accommodation centers. They also complained of application processing times that significantly exceeded the six-month time limit established by law. The State Agency for Refugees noted there were insufficient Arabic-speaking interpreters to assist asylum seekers. NGOs stated there were insufficient interpreters for several languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, French, and English.

The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedoms would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The UNHCR stated the risk of genuine refugees receiving a rejection was limited. A Chechen, Mohmad Gadamauri, remained in jail pending an ECHR review of his case on whether to grant extradition to Russia. Authorities detained him in 2012 at the border on an Interpol notice, disregarding that he was a recognized refugee in both Germany and Poland.

The law requires that persons seeking refugee status file an application within “a reasonable time” after entering the country. The UNHCR and NGOs reported that the practice of imprisoning persons who had illegally crossed the border delayed their ability to claim asylum. In April 2013 at least 37 foreign citizens sentenced for illegal border crossing went on a hunger strike at Sofia prison, claiming authorities denied them their right to claim asylum and demanding review of their cases.

The low institutional capacity of the government to process requests and transfer applicants to shelters became even more evident with the increased inflow of asylum seekers from Syria. In September, 32 Syrian asylum seekers who had been held for months in the detention center in Lyubimets and 50 Syrian asylum seekers held in the detention center in Busmantsi went on hunger strikes to demand expeditious resolution of their cases. Asylum seekers complained of being unable to support themselves on the government-allotted 65 levs ($45) per month stipend for food and medicine as they waited for a decision on their applications.

Some media published predominantly negative coverage of the refugees, claiming they were mostly criminals and terrorists. In October Magdalena Tasheva, Ataka National Assembly member and host of a television program, characterized the Syrian refugees as “cannibals,” “thugs,” and “murderers.” The government offered no official reaction to the statements. The BHC filed a complaint on behalf of a group of Syrian asylum seekers with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination.







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