Sofia, June 22, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov says his country is urging Turkey to comply with a refugee readmission agreement with the EU and says Ankara should show that the agreement is working effectively.
Mitov was speaking in a television interview on June 22, a few hours before Bulgaria’s Cabinet was due to approval a protocol between Bulgaria and Turkey on the EU-Turkey readmission agreement signed in Ankara on May 5.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister and its Interior Minister said some days ago that Bulgaria had attempted to return about 200 refugees to Turkey in terms of this agreement, but there had been no response from Turkey.
Mitov said that the problem with returning refugees to Turkey was not just a Bulgarian issue. He said that Bulgaria had tried and failed to return 195 refugees to Turkey. Other countries had had similar problems, he said.
The readmission agreement should be discussed at EU-Turkey level, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister said. He said that the Turkish side had said that it had ratified the agreement, but that country was yet to accept how to apply the agreement itself. This was a legal case that should be decided at EU-Turkey level, Mitov said.
Mitov said that the situation at the Bulgarian-Turkish border was calm and migratory pressure had not increased.
The foreign minister’s statement came a day after Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry released figures saying that in the first five months of 2016, the number of people detained illegally crossing the border from Turkey into Bulgaria was about half of that for the first five months of 2015.
The Interior Ministry said that the ongoing special police operation involving border guards and officials from the ministry, the border fence and the support of European border guards under the aegis of the Frontex agency had contributed to a significant reduction in the number of illegal crossings from Turkish territory.
From January to the end of May 2016, Border Police had detained 1858 people who had crossed int Bulgaria illegally from Turkey. In the first five months of 2015, the number was 3535, the Interior Ministry said.
Mitov said that Europe clearly stated the situation and what could and could not be accomplished. Turkey had the capacity to cope with increased migratory pressure previously. This was a good framework to be able to continue to develop mechanisms to better control migration flows. It was essential also to destroy the network for smuggling migrants, Mitov said.
Meanwhile, in the European Parliament on June 21, members of the civil liberties committee said that the European Union should check the veracity of reports that Turkish border guards are shooting and killing Syrians who are trying to flee their country.
MEPs also asked the European Commission to assess whether the EU-Turkey deal to manage migration and refugee flows can continue to apply in these circumstances.
Most MEPs described the reports coming from the Syria-Turkey border as “extremely worrying” and agreed that if they proved true, then there should be “consequences”. While acknowledging that the number of migrant arrivals has fallen substantially following the deal with Ankara, they underlined that the refugee relocation scheme is not working and that the resettlement programme is progressing very slowly.
They also voiced concerns about the pressure on the Greek appeals committees reviewing inadmissibility decisions on asylum claims.