The Bulgarian army yesterday conducted a major exercise on the Greek border, testing their capacity to deal with a migrant influx. The Prime Minister slammed the Greek response to the crisis and offered up his forces to deal with migrants.
Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov also boasted that his forces could crack down on people smugglers in Greece “in a day” and said he would push to have all “illegal migrants” harshly criminalised.
Last year Bulgaria erected a 15 foot tall, 5 foot wide fence along it’s border with Turkey, which is monitored 24 hours a day by armed guards stationed at strategic points and on watchtowers along its entire 50-mile length.
Consequently, comparatively few migrants have made it through the nation into Europe, despite offering a relatively short land route. Even David Cameron praised the fence when he visited it in December last year.
The Bulgarians are taking no chances however. Today’s joint drill between the police and army was conducted in the southwestern part of the country, at the border with Greece and not far from the one with Macedonia where 30,000 migrants are currently camped.
Fifty units of military equipment — including two helicopters, off road and armoured vehicles — were deployed in the drill, along with vehicles used by the fire brigade and ambulance service, Novinite reports.
Mr. Borisov is an ex-professional footballer and founding member of Bulgaria’s ruling centre-right GERB party. Speaking after the drill, he said that his border police had been detaining “illegal immigrants and their smugglers” every day.
“It is not only me who raises the issue to the Greek Prime Minister [Alexis Tsipras]”, he added.
David Cameron tours the border fence near the town of Lesovo with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov pic.twitter.com/1mGzpWaldr
— REX (@rexfeatures) December 4, 2015
Unusually, he praised the Turkish authorities for their cooperation. The European Union (EU), meanwhile, has been highly critical of Turkey’s response to the migrant crisis after they agreed a €3 billion aid deal with the nation.
Despite his criticism of their response, he had kind words for the Greeks and extended an offer to Athens to assist the struggling, bankrupt nation with his military capability.
“We cannot leave Greece, our neighbours, our friends, they have been brothers to us for centuries and will remain so.
“If they want it, I can send them our [Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime] and [counter-intelligence and security agency] DANS and in a day smugglers will be dealt with”, he suggested.
He also said that Bulgaria would be demanding a strong, united response to the crisis at the EU-Turkey summit next week by pushing for the criminalisation of migrants.
“The term ‘illegal migrant’ should be applied in its legal sense, in other words we cannot tolerate violation of the law”, he said.
Adding: “Only at the official border crossing points – and after fingerprints and medical care are taken, after we have a confirmed destination where they are welcome – will we let migrants in.”