Bulgarian Prosecution Investigates Citizens' Migrant Arrests

  • Bulgarian vigilantes detain and rob migrants along border
  • Amateur video on social media shows migrants with hands tied

The Bulgarian Prosecution started an investigation of vigilante groups who have illegally detained migrants from the Middle East in so-called citizens arrests and force them to go back to Turkey.

Volunteer groups led by small-time criminals are targeting the migrants along Bulgaria’s southern border and robbing them, Valeri Simeonov, leader of the Patriotic Front, the government’s junior coalition partner in parliament, said in an interview with Focus Radio in Sofia Tuesday. They then call the border police to pick them up or force them to cross the border back to Turkey, he said.

The regional prosecution of the city of Malko Tarnovo on the Turkish border began a pre-trial proceeding for the unlawful detainment of foreigners, it said in an e-mailed statement. The vigilantes face up to six years in prison if found guilty, it said.

Bulgaria has so far remained on the sidelines of Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. It is setting up a razor-wire fence along its 260-kilometer (162-mile) border with Turkey. The parliament allowed joint army and police patrols to strengthen control of the border with Turkey, Greece and Macedonia as other Balkan countries closed their borders to migrants seeking refuge in western Europe amid continuing war in Syria.

Video, Minister

Amateur video footage broadcast on several Bulgarian television stations and in social media this week showed three men lying on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs as someone shouted “go back to Turkey!” An unidentified person who posted the video on social media was arrested and is being investigated, the prosecution said.

“Now we have to pay attention not only to those illegally crossing the borders, but also to those who want to take advantage of them, for money or cheap fame,” Interior Minister Roumiana Bachvarova said on her Facebook account. “We won’t allow random people, taking a walk and calling themselves ’patriots,’ to decide whether to turn refugees back or direct them to places of registration.”

More than 3,000 illegal migrants were detained in the three months since January and 760 of them were placed in refugee centers, according to the Interior Ministry.

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