Bulgaria warns Germany against returning refugees

Boyko Borissov [L] in Malta with the Bulgarian Ambassador to the EU, Dimitar Tsantchev. [European Council]

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov warned Germany yesterday (12 November) against returning refugees to countries where they first registered.

Speaking to journalists at the Valletta summit on migration, Borissov said that if Berlin begins applying the Dublin II agreement again, and starts sending back unwanted asylum seekers, there will be less of a chance that they will be integrated in Bulgaria, and Macedonia.

Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suspended the Dublin II agreement on the asylum rules, and decided to not send refugees back to the EU countries in which they first registered.

>>Read: Merkel’s ‘hotspot’ comment sets Bulgaria on fire

But on 9 November, the German Interior Ministry said it was returning to the Dublin II procedure with respect to all EU member states except Greece.

“We cannot keep migrants by force in Bulgaria,” warned Borissov, adding that his country had no intention of building prisons to hold asylum seekers in.

Borissov cited cases when refugees have been apprehended 6 or 7 times trying to leave the country. Each time they had been returned to the refugee centres, and each time they have attempted again to cross the border again, he said.

Even with relocation, there are no asylum seekers willing to come to Bulgaria, Borissov said.

>>Read: Rights body raps Bulgaria for refugee push-backs

EU leaders agreed to relocate a total of 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to the rest of the EU over the next two years. Bulgaria has committed to take in a total of 1302: 100 in 2015, 500 in 2016 and 702 in 2017. But, according to reports, not a single asylum seeker wants to be moved to Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU.

Bulgaria is also concerned that wealthier countries would hold on to qualified refugees, and return those whose integration prospects look more problematic to countries along the transit route.

Borissov said that if Bulgaria was able to choose qualified refugees, it would provide jobs for them. He said he had discussed the issue with the sectors in the business community, such as agriculture and transport, where workers were needed.

The Bulgarian premier added that when the current crisis is under control, a system of green cards should be introduced, and 10,000, 20,000 or another number of refugees per year could be taken to the EU, according to the needs of EU economies.

Borissov praised Turkey for its “European behaviour” in helping contain the flow of asylum seekers. He said he was in favour of gestures to Ankara, and mentioned visa liberalisation as a possible positive step. 

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