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Will Bulgaria manage to enter the Schengen area at the end of 2023?

Will Bulgaria manage to enter the Schengen area at the end of 2023?

Euronews-WITNESS travels to the Bulgarian border to investigate violence by Bulgarian border guards against migrants trying to reach EU territory irregularly, denounced by NGOs.

Bulgaria is striving to join the area of ​​free movement, and for years the European Parliament and the Commission have confirmed that the eastern European country is ready for it. But… until now, the Netherlands and Austria have blocked their entry, pointing to the high number of migrants entering the European Union via the so-called ‘Balkan Route’, through Turkey and Bulgaria. At the same time, the NGOs warn about the alleged use of violence by the Bulgarian border guards.

The Euronews-WITNESS team traveled to the border of the Bulgarian nation to investigate this matter.

Today, Bulgaria is a member of NATO and the European Union. The ‘Iron Curtain’ has been replaced by a modern border fence to prevent migrants from crossing illegally into the territory of the community bloc.

The Bulgarian Border Police service thwarted 164,000 attempts to cross the border irregularly in 2022, compared to 55,000 attempts in 2021 (figures provided by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior).

In recent months, disturbing news has arrived from Bulgarian territory: several police officers died in traffic accidents, involving ‘human traffickers’, who were transporting migrants. At the same time, eighteen migrants suffocated to death in a small truck carrying timber.

Meanwhile, there are multiple reports of Bulgarian border guards beating migrants, pushing them back to Turkey.

“For a year we had the testimony of 600 people who officially told us that they had experienced episodes of violence and rejection at the border. We witnessed many terrifying situations. The agents of the Bulgarian Border Police beat them,” says Diana Dimova , founder of the human rights organization ‘Mission Wings’.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee documented up to 5,000 cases of illegal returns last year (but the actual numbers could be much higher).

The Euronews journalist, who did the reporting, asked Ivaylo Tonchev about those accusations.

“There is no violence against immigrants. In the only cases where physical force is used, it is done in accordance with Bulgarian law. However, there are groups of aggressive migrants who throw stones at us,” says Tonchev, who oversees the regional directorate of the Border Police in Elhovo.

The European Union helps Bulgaria to improve the management of its borders. Recently, 200 million euros have been earmarked for this purpose. Well-informed sources consider that Bulgaria could become part of the Schengen area at the end of 2023.

Source: Euronews Espanol

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