Afghan Migrant Fatally Shot as Group of Illegals Are Detained Near Bulgaria's Southern Border

ESD  19:17:31  16-10-2015

Afghan Migrant Fatally Shot
as Group of Illegals Are Detained Near Bulgaria's
Southern Border

Elhovo, Southeastern Bulgaria, October 16 (BTA) - An Afghan man received a gunshot wound and died on his way to hospital late Thursday evening while Border Police were apprehending a group of 54 illegal migrants who had crossed from Turkey near the town of Sredets, Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Georgi Kostov told a news briefing here on Friday. The incident occurred inside Bulgarian territory, some 30 km from the border with Turkey.

Kostov said that a police officer fired a warning shot in the air as the illegal migrants resisted arrest. One of the migrants was wounded by a ricochet and later died, Kostov said.

An investigation has started to establish how the ricocheting bullet wounded the victim.
Kostov said three Border Police officers confronted the group of 54 migrants, all men aged between 20 and 30, physically fit and acting in an organized manner. The police called in reinforcements and the migrants were detained and taken to the Border Police station. The aliens will be transferred to the refugee placement centre in Elhovo.

Kostov said that the illegal border crossing was detected by the integrated border protection system, and that the incident took place in a hilly wooded area.

Bourgas District Prosecutor Kalina Chapkunova said that two inspections have been conducted so far on the site of the incident. A backpack and two mobile phones belonging to the victim have been recovered, as well as a service pistol with a magazine with seven bullets belonging to the policeman who fired the shots. A ballistic examination has been ordered.

Chapkunova said that none of the detained migrants had an ID.
This is the first incident in which a migrant has been shot at the EU external border.
The incident prompted Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to cut short his participation in the EU summit in Brussels and fly back home late on Thursday.

Learning the first reports of the incident, Presidents Donald Tusk of the Council of the European Union and Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission expressed support for Bulgaria. Speaking at a news conference after the end of the European Council meeting on Thursday night, Juncker said "We are with Bulgaria".

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a statement that he was "appalled by the killing of an Afghan migrant by Bulgaria's border guards."

The statement says that the victim "was likely an asylum-seeker, and instead of protection he found death." "I urge the Bulgarian authorities to fully and effectively investigate the incident and establish accountability. They must also give clear instructions to border guards on how to handle migration flows in compliance with international human rights and refugee protection standards, which are binding on Bulgaria, and ensure that these instructions are followed in practice," Muiznieks stated.

In his words, the Bulgarian authorities must instruct the border guards to handle the migrant flows in conformity with international human rights and refugee protection standards.

In a position on the incident released by his Press Secretariat, President Rosen Plevneliev expressed deep regret over the absurd accident which claimed the life of a migrant who had crossed illegally from Turkey. "This tragic incident is yet another reason to call for united and quick all-European measures to resolve the migrant crisis," Plevneliev stated.

The head of State is certain of the high professionalism of the law-enforcers who guard the Bulgarian and the EU border round-the-clock and who come under extreme pressure while performing their professional duties. Plevneliev welcomes the timely reaction of the law-enforcement authorities and the launch of an independent investigation into the case.

The President called for ensuring the investigators the calm they need to do their job and once again urged people seeking asylum in Bulgaria not to commit acts that violate Bulgarian and EU law and to abide by the rules that apply to all.

"Last night's incident at the Bulgarian-Turkish border shows yet again the need of a common European policy on protection of the European borders," Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva commented, addressing the 17th International Summit on Transnational Crime, organized by the Crans Montana Forum in Geneva.

Kuneva was categorical that Bulgaria strictly fulfils its obligations to guard its border, which is also a EU external border. "When border protection is discussed in Europe today, Member States cannot be divided into such inside and outside Schengen and two systems cannot apply. This is precisely why Bulgaria must use the full set of tools of the Schengen Information System, because otherwise both national and Europewide security is challenged. There can be no East-West divide in migrant policy," the Deputy PM said, quoted by the Government Information Service. She added that security and humanitarian commitments are the two pillars of migrant policy.

Speaking to reporters in Plovdiv (South Central Bulgaria), Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said that the Armed Forces are ready to assist the Interior Ministry in guarding the border. Nenchev said that whether such assistance is necessary is a matter of consideration.

"I have always been concerned with what takes place along Bulgaria's southern border. We should be prepared for anything," he said.

The Sofia Representation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees sharply condemned the incident with the deceased migrant near Sredets, UNHCR Spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said on Bulgarian National Radio.

"We deplore the death of an Afghan asylum seeker, trying to reach safety across the border. We call on the Bulgarian authorities to conduct an immediate, transparent and independent investigation. Seeking asylum is an universal human right and not a crime," Cheshirkov said. 

Commenting on allegations that asylum seekers may include radically-minded people, the UNHCR Spokesman said it was wrong to make a connection between the refugees and those they are fleeing from.

In a statement following the incident, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization said that the Bulgarian border authorities must act uncompromisingly when guarding the country and the EU border. According to the party, the accident was caused "by the inadequate Brussels-imposed policy which encourages migrants".

The National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) is approaching Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova and President Rosen Plevneliev with a formal proposal for the conferment of the Order for Civil Merit, First Degree, on the three Border Police officers who participated in the detention of a group of 54 illegal border crosses near the town of Sredets on the night of October 15 to 16, 2015, the NFSB said in a declaration.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) said in a position that it was perplexed by the fact that 18 hours after the incident involving the Afghan migrant, the Bulgarian Government has not yet come up with an official position. The MRF recalls that a fortnight ago they called on the head of State to convene the Consultative Council on National Security (CCNS). "Our idea was to consider political and expert measures to ensure more security without loss of life. If this was done and the CCNS had reached agreement on the actions of the specialized bodies of the Bulgarian State, this incident could have been avoided," the position states.

The MRF does not accept and condemns the position of the NFSB leader. "Shooting to kill would kill not only the refugees, it would kill the idea of a Europe of humanism, democracy and freedom," the party declared. The reference is to a statement by NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov on bTV Friday morning that "Bulgarian Border Police officer should open fire whenever the border is crossed and their orders are disobeyed." "Shooting to kill is quite natural: this is the Bulgarian border, this is the sacred Bulgarian territory, which nobody has the right to trespass. Should they wait to be shot at or stabbed? There was a recent case in which two Bulgarian forest rangers were stabbed," the nationalist argues.

The National Police Trade Union in Bulgaria pledged support for the Border Police officer who fired the shot during the detention of the migrants on Thursday evening.

"Valkan Hambarliev is an officer of the Border Police Unit in Sredets who is a brave and selfless professional and a colleague who makes everyone proud," the National Police Trade Union in Bulgaria said in a press release.

The BTA correspondent in Brussels Nikolay Jeliazkov contributed to this report.


Source: Elhovo, Southeastern Bulgaria