Hundreds of migrants have been arrested in special police operations over the last 24 hours on Bulgarian territory, inside the country and while trying to cross into Serbia illegally, the Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday.
In Sofia, police have arrested 162 migrants without documents, including men, women and children, while 45 others have been prevented from crossing into Serbia in two different groups near the border towns of Kula and Bregovo.
“The Serbian-Bulgarian border is well guarded,” Deputy Interior Minister Filip Gounev said on Tuesday following an extraordinary session of two parliamentary commissions dedicated to the threats arising from ongoing instability in Turkey.
On Sunday, Serbia decided to form a joint police and military force to patrol the border with Bulgaria and Macedonia and prevent illegal movements into Serbia and the smuggling of refugees.
In response, on Monday the secretary general of the Bulgarian police, Georgi Kostov, said that “Serbia has no reason to worry about the security [of its border with Bulgaria]”, declining to comment further on Serbia’s border policy.
The refugees arrested on the Bulgarian-Serbian border were reportedly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Some have been registered as asylum seekers in Bulgaria and released while the others have been sent to the detention centre in Busmantsi, near Sofia, the police reported.
All the migrants arrested in Sofia were found in the Moderno Predgradie district, at four different addresses.
Mladen Marinov, senior commissioner in the Ministry of Interior, said on Tuesday that none of them had been registered or detected by the police and none had spent more than 24 hours in the country.
Three investigations have been started into the locals who hosted the group.
The Ministry of Interior also reported that border police officers have “prevented”157 foreign citizens from crossing the Turkish-Bulgarian border illegally.
Gounev told MPs that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had decided to boost border security to send a “clear signal that the destabilization in Turkey will not lead to migration pressure”.
Since the beginning of the year, over 7,800 people have sought asylum in Bulgaria, State Agency for Refugees data show.
In earlier attempts to halt the refugee and migrant flow across the Turkish border, Sofia has deployed additional police to boost its border guards and allowed the army to participate in border patrols.
A 133-kilometre barbed-wire fence is still under construction along the land border with Turkey.
However, the Bulgarian authorities have complained that Turkey has only taken back a small number of people so far.