In response to the request from Bulgarian authorities, Frontex agreed on 8 August to significantly strengthen its ongoing activities at the country’s land borders. The additional assistance is mainly focused on the border with Turkey but surveillance of the border with Serbia has also been reinforced.
As part of its operational response, Frontex currently deploys 192 officers and staff, including 136 border surveillance experts, at Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey and Serbia. The agency also deploys 10 dog teams, 46 patrol cars and five thermo-vision vans.
EU border guard officers are currently taking part in six Frontex-coordinated joint operations in Bulgaria. These operations are: JO Focal Points Sea, JO Flexible Operational Activities 2016 Land on border Surveillance (South Eastern Borders and Western Balkans), JO Focal Points Land, JO Flexible Operational Activities 2016 Land on Border Checks, JO Focal Points Air and JO Vega Children 2016.
Although Bulgaria has not seen a rise in the number of detections of irregular migrants at its border with Turkey this year, the increased presence of officers deployed by Frontex is a precautionary measure aimed at boosting Bulgaria’s capacity at its land borders.
In total, some 2361 irregular migrants were detected at Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey in the first eight months of the year. The main nationalities of the migrants were Afghanis, Iraqis, Syrians and Pakistanis.
Criminal networks in Turkey smuggle migrants across the border from Turkey to Bulgaria and hand them over to other smugglers. To cross the Bulgarian-Serbian land border, migrants often use the service of smugglers, who transport them towards the border section with Serbia and show them the direction in which to walk.