EU urges Bulgaria to probe shooting of refugee at Turkish border: report

Bulgarian border police patrol next to a barbed wire wall fence erected on the Bulgaria-Turkey border near the town of Lesovo on February 21, 2017. NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

The European Commission on Tuesday urged Bulgaria to thoroughly investigate the alleged shooting by Bulgarian guards of a Syrian refugee on the country’s border with Turkey on October 3, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Anitta Hipper, European Commission spokeswoman on home affairs, migration and internal security, told reporters that Brussels expects Bulgarian authorities to investigate any allegations and to follow up swiftly and effectively. “We take all allegations of any wrongdoings at the European border seriously, and violence and loss of life is unacceptable,” she added.

A video released Monday showed an asylum seeker collapsing to the ground after being struck by a bullet that penetrates his hand and lodges in his chest on October 3. In a separate video recorded days later, the man identified himself as 19-year-old Abdullah El Rustum from Syria. He said he was shot by Bulgarian border officers after his group was caught trying to illegally enter Bulgaria and pushed back into Turkey.

The Bulgarian government denied the allegations. According to a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a Bulgarian Interior Ministry statement said there was no evidence that Syrian refugees were shot at the Bulgarian-Turkish border on October 3, when border patrols prevented an attempted border crossing by a group of about 65 people.

The Bulgarian government said its border guards have encountered more aggression from people trying to illegally enter the country.

Last month, officials reported that a Bulgarian police officer was shot dead by an unidentified person at the border with Turkey. In August, two police officers were also killed when they were hit by a bus carrying migrants.

On Friday evening two migrants, whose nationalities have not yet been determined, were found lying on the ground in the village of Vaysal on the Bulgarian border, Turkish media reported. The gendarmerie and medical teams that arrived at the scene found that one of the migrants had frozen to death and that the other was suffering from hypothermia. The latter was taken to a hospital in Edirne.

The medical team determined that both migrants had been severely beaten, according to local media.

In November Bulgaria deployed 350 soldiers to the border with Turkey to help police cope with the growing influx of migrants, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Bulgarian defense minister.

“Soldiers arrived at the Bulgarian-Turkish border today to back up the border police,” Georgi Panayotov told bTV.

2022 has already seen more than 6,500 people cross illegally into Bulgaria, three times the numbers for the first nine months of 2020, AFP said, citing the Bulgarian interior ministry.

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