Source: Euro Activ 20. novembra 2013.
The European Commission indirectly warned Greece and Bulgaria to stop turning down Syrian refugees at their borders with Turkey, after the UN issued a similar call just a few days before. Greece and Bulgaria not only do not receive refugees from war-torn Syria, but also raise fences on the “critical” parts of the border. The Commission said that each member alone can choose how to guard the border and say that lifting the walls does not solve the problem and that the border protection must be in accordance with international and European law.
On November 15th, 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called on Greece and Bulgaria to stop turning back Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged homeland.
Bulgarian authorities have reportedly bragged of turning down refugees at the border.
According to the website of the Bulgarian government, Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev, who is also deputy prime minister, has said that in just one day more than 100 persons, and previously more than 150, were prevented from entering the country.
Hundreds of policemen have been sent to the Bulgarian border with Turkey to push back potential immigrants.
Greek-Turkish border is 130 km long and protected from illegal immigration, except on the part in the length of about 20 km near the town of Orestiada and the Turkish city of Edirne, in a place where the river Marica cuts the border.
It is estimated that from 2011 to 2012 more than thousands of immigrants per week entered in the EU on that part of the border.
Greek authorities recently raised the fence in this area that was financed by the EU. The Commission did not approve the plan, assessing that the walls and fences were “interim measures” for which should not be wasting money of the EU taxpayers.
In 2007 Greek authorities decided to establish “closed centers” for illegal immigrants in 10 regions of the country.
As stated, the impoverished Bulgaria is struggling to deal with the some 7,000 refugees from Syria already on its soil and also with more and more of those trying to enter the country.
Bulgaria and Greece have begun to make fences on the border with Turkey. Greece has raised 12.5 km long wall at the “critical” part of the border with Turkey, near the town Orestiada and Bulgaria announced that plans to build a similar, 30-km long fence near the town of Elhovo.
Michele Cercone, spokesperson for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström, said that pushing back asylum seekers was against EU and international law.
“Push-backs are simply not allowed. They are not in line with EU and international obligations. Member states cannot, shall not and should not carry out any push-back,” he said.
Asked how laws against push-backs were consistent with the fact that several member states had erected walls or fences at their borders, Cercone conceded that EU countries were free to decide their own border protection measures.
“This is of course their choice. But we have always said that walls do not solve problem. What solves problem is a consistent structural management of migratory and asylum seekers’ flows,” Cercone said.
He explained that this was implying that member states should be able to manage these flows in full respect of fundamental rights and international and European obligations.
“No one who comes to the EU territory and asks for asylum can not be pushed back or be denied for this possibility,” he said, adding that this stemmed from the core values on which the EU was built.
Asked if the message of the Commission was specially referred for Bulgaria and Greece, Cercone said this was a message to all member states.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, will visit Bulgaria on November 22nd, 2013. During that visit he will be accompanied by Bulgarian EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who is responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis response.