SOFIA, May 28 – Bulgaria detained 53 Afghan migrants on Saturday aboard a freight train from Greece and said it would return them to its southern neighbour to “send a strong message” to others who might be tempted to use the same route to western Europe.
Greece’s border with Macedonia just to the west is now effectively closed to migrants, sparking fears in Bulgaria that they may instead try to transit its territory on their way north. Bulgaria shares a 500 km (310 mile) border with Greece.
Bulgaria’s fears have grown following Athens’ decision this week to shut a makeshift refugee camp, the largest in Europe, on its border with Macedonia due to deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
“All of them (the Afghan migrants) are registered in Greece and they will be returned to Greece,” said Georgi Kostov, chief secretary of the Bulgarian interior ministry, adding that a further 34 illegal migrants had been detained on Friday night.
“(By returning the migrants back to Greece) we want to send a strong message to all who have chosen this route,” he said.
The ministry said in a statement it would send troops to assist border police in guarding the frontier against an influx of refugees.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said in March the Black Sea state was ready to build a fence on its border with Greece if necessary to keep out migrants.