Bulgaria arrests 18,000 migrants who tried to cross the border during 2023, most of them Syrians

The Bulgarian Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of 18,008 immigrants from non-European Union nationals between January 1 and November 2023, in an attempt to limit the flow of asylum seekers to Europe.

The Ministry explained in a statement on January 4 that this number represents an increase of 15.4% compared to 2022.

Syrians make the largest group with (50.1%), followed by Afghans (32.7%) and Moroccans (11%).

The statement declared that the authorities discovered that there were about 14,000 immigrants residing illegally inside the country during the 11-month period, which means an increase of 31.5% compared to 2022.

The Ministry of Interior said that the same period witnessed the arrest of 1,560 unregistered migrants while trying to enter the Bulgarian border, and 1,849 others while trying to leave the border.

While Border Police data shows that about 176,000 attempts to enter the country’s borders illegally were thwarted during the 11-month period, which is 13% more than the numbers recorded in the same period in 2022.

In press statements last December 24, the Secretary-General of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, Zhivko Kotsev, described unregulated migration and trafficking of migrants as “huge challenges.”

Border Police Director Anton Zlatanov said last December 22 that the year 2023 was “difficult and dynamic,” but it was also “rewarding.”

It is worth noting that Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey represent the biggest challenge for the border police, as illegal crossing attempts are concentrated there.

The Bulgarian authorities confirm that they thwarted more than 175,000 attempts to cross the border from Turkey during the past year 2023.

The Ministry of Interior also prevented more than 193,000 illegal immigrants from moving to other European countries. The Ministry also reported the dismantling of several migrant smuggling gangs over the past year.

At the end of that month, the National Assembly approved tougher penalties for trafficking in illegal immigrants.

Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the European Union, and when migrants see that they do not have much opportunity there, they decide to leave.

According to human rights activists, many illegal attempts to enter the European Union on the Turkish-Bulgarian border end in the death of migrants and asylum seekers from various countries going through crises and wars. The difficult circumstances they are going through have caused the authorities of those countries through which migrants pass to bury many bodies without being able to identify them.

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