Cages on the Bulgarian border after anti-migrant walls

In the footage, he staggers, sways to his feet, then collapses, his hand over his heart. His comrades run towards him screaming. On October 3, 2022, while trying to illegally cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, 19-year-old Syrian Abdullah Muhammad targeted the borders of the Bulgarian security forces, including the security forces, and was seriously injured. The bullet pierced his lungs. The video, released by the Lighthouse Reports team and a number of international media, including Le Monde, was released on December 5, 2022.

Three days later, on December 8, this media released unpublished and equally disturbing footage of dozens of exiles being held in a sort of cattle shed without being turned on camera. Outside, a few meters from the “cage” on the litter-covered ground, stands a car from Europe’s Frontex agency, which is responsible for controlling the external borders of the Schengen zone. “We were insulted, robbed and beaten. There was a 15-year-old boy and a woman with us. We asked for water and food in this cage, but they didn’t give us anything. I stayed there for three days.”one of them, originally from Syria, testifies. “They let the dogs on us inside and even beat the wounded ones. After a few hours, they took us back to the Turkish border in a truck.”speaks of another Afghan nationality.

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This is happening in Bulgaria, which has already been singled out by the European Court of Human Rights for illegal returns of asylum seekers and declared a state of emergency in part to deal with the influx of migrants. . According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Bulgaria, in 2022, about 11 thousand people, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, were arrested after entering the country illegally. Most of them come from Turkey and try to pass through this Balkan country to reach Western Europe. At the end of August 2022, a bus carrying about 50 exiles crashed into a police car trying to block it in Burgas on the Black Sea coast, killing two police officers instantly. On November 7, 2022, a Bulgarian policeman who was checking the breaking of barbed wire between Bulgaria and Turkey was shot in the head and killed.

EU funds

Since then, Bulgaria (population 6.5 million), a member of the European Union (EU) since 2007, has increased its checkpoints in hopes of entering the Schengen area. However, on December 8, 2022, Austria and the Netherlands vetoed access to this vast area, where more than 420 million people can travel freely without internal border controls. “If more than 75,000 migrants cross the EU member states unchecked, this means a huge security risk for the entire EU”, – said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who declared himself to be a supporter of the construction of fences on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey (260 kilometers long). Its costs will be paid by the European Union.

By 2014, Sofia had already built 165 kilometers of fence on the border with Turkey. In 2015, Hungary, in turn, built a 175-kilometer barrier on its border with Serbia. Compared to the Berlin Wall, ultra-conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s initiative in the midst of the migrant crisis was particularly criticized by then-Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in France: “Hungary is part of Europe; Europe has values ​​and we don’t respect those values ​​by building fences like we wouldn’t do with animals. »

An island opportunity for migrants

France, which has been quick to criticize, has nevertheless been one of those that have fenced off access to the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel since the early 2010s, preventing refugees from crossing into the UK. Since then, the “walls of shame” have gained followers: barbed wire has grown in Greece, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. In October 2021, the interior ministers of twelve European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) asked the European Commission to finance the construction of fences on their borders. The request rejected by the president of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen: “I have made it very clear that the Commission and the European Parliament have a long-standing shared position that there will be no funding for barbed wire and walls. »

The EU refuses to fund “anti-migrant walls” but funds border police: Bulgaria has received €320 million, Croatia €163 million and Hungary €144 million in recent years. The Lighthouse Reports collective found that Bulgarian border forces used around €170,000 in EU funds to renovate the Srédéts police station in 2017, which housed an illegal cage-like hangar. In the same year, two prison buses of the Hungarian border police were bought with EU funds for 1.8 million euros. Finally, specially designed roads where Croatian minibuses take refugees to the border to facilitate returns have also been funded by European taxpayers.

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