Bulgaria sees no jump in migrant inflows after Turkey move, tightens border controls

FILE PHOTO - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov leaves the second day of the European Union leaders summit, held to discuss the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027, in Brussels, Belgium, February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has seen no significant increase in migrants breaching its border with Turkey, its interior minister said on Friday, after Ankara said it would no longer prevent refugees from leaving for Europe.

Bulgaria, a European Union member state, has reinforced its 300-km (190 mile) border with Turkey with more police and said it is ready to deploy up to 1,000 soldiers and military equipment to deter illegal migrants.

Refugees in Turkey were heading on Friday towards the Bulgarian and Greek borders after a Turkish official declared that borders had been thrown open, a response to the escalating war in Syria where 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

“The situation on the territory of Turkey is worrying. But for the moment there are no attempts to cross into our country, apart from isolated cases,” Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said after a visit to the Kapitan Andreevo border post.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to discuss the migrant situation and developments in Syria, his press office said.

In a telephone call with Erdogan earlier on Friday, Borissov praised Turkey’s efforts to look after the 3.7 million Syrian refugees based on its territory and said a 2016 deal agreed between Ankara and the EU should be maintained.

Under that deal, the EU offers billions of euros in aid to Turkey in return for Ankara preventing migrants from trying to reach Europe.

Borissov later informed the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, about his conversation with Erdogan and said Brussels should maintain contact with Ankara over the migrant issue. The EU is anxious to avoid the collapse of the 2016 deal.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Gareth Jones