site.btaUPDATED Sofia Denies Border Shooting Allegations
In an official position sent to BTA, the Interior Ministry said that there was no evidence that Syrian refugees were shot at the Bulgarian-Turskish border. According to the Ministry, this is yet another case of aggression by those trying to cross illegally into Bulgaria.
The position was taken in connection with a video and photos distributed by several international media, which alleged that Bulgarian authorities guarding the border fired at refugees, one of whom ended up wounded.
The Ministry specifies that the case dates from October 3, when border patrols prevented an attempted violation of the state border by a group of about 65 people. Upon spotting the border patrol, the group retreated back into Turkish territory. Shortly thereafter, they returned, displaying aggressive and hostile behaviour which escalated into physical violence - throwing burning objects and rocks at the Bulgarian police officers, their vehicle, and the security booth. A border policeman was injured by the thrown rocks. Significant material damage was caused to the police vehicle.
A month later, at a joint meeting between Bulgaria and Turkiye a video was shown, filmed with a phone by the migrants. A shot was heard in the video from which a Syrian citizen was injured on Turkish territory. It does not become clear from the video which direction the shot came from. In connection with this incident, a fact-finding check was carried out, which shows that no shots were fired from the Bulgarian side, the Interior Ministry said.
An inspection of the prosecution service in Burgas, on the Black Sea, did not reveal any evidence of shooting at the border, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev told the media on Tuesday. He expressed hope that an incident from two months ago will not be used for political purposes to the detriment of Bulgaria, because Bulgaria does not deserve it. Geshev stressed that Bulgaria is a European country with European standards.
Commenting the issue of the alleged migrant shooting, President Rumen Radev told journalists in Tirana that a detailed inspection is underway into the matter. He is in the Albanian capital to attend an EU-Western Balkans Summit.
What is evident so far is that there was a large group of migrants who were aggressive, there was a broken border police vehicle, a Bulgarian police officer wounded in the line of duty. There are no facts, there is no evidence and data that a shot was fired by a Bulgarian police officer at a migrant, Radev said.
Given that there is at least one victim, there should be pre-trial proceedings, Radoslav Stoyanov of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee told the media in a comment on the topic.
According to him, it is yet to be established whether there are other victims. It does not matter who the injured person is, but it must be established exactly how the events took place, he said.
Stoyanov noted that it does not matter for what reason the Syrian citizen wanted to cross the border. He is an injured person, and he is vulnerable. Unfortunately, Europe has a differentiated approach towards refugees and some people have no legal way to cross the border, Stoyanov added.
The European Commission (EC) expressed Tuesday its expectation that Bulgaria will investigate the allegations.
The EC's position is that they expect the national authorities to investigate the allegations and to take swift action, EC spokesperson Anitta Hipper told a press conference in response to questions. The Commission seriously considers all allegations of violations at European borders. Violence and loss of life are unacceptable, she added.
Hipper clarified that it is not the job of the European border service Frontex to investigate such allegations. The matter is in the hands of national authorities, she said.