Monday 26 September 2016

UN condemns death of refugee shot by Bulgarian border guards

Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov

Published 16/10/2015 | 09:13

People wait to enter a migrant processing center after arriving from Turkey onto the island of Lesbos on October 15, 2015 in Mytilene, Greece as the migrant crisis continues across Europe (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People wait to enter a migrant processing center after arriving from Turkey onto the island of Lesbos on October 15, 2015 in Mytilene, Greece as the migrant crisis continues across Europe (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov leaves after an European Council leaders' summit, at the European Council in Brussels, on October 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Thierry CharlierTHIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images
Bulgarian border police officers observe the area near the town of Sredets where an Afghan migrant was shot dead on October 16, 2015. Bulgarian border guards shot dead an Afghan migrant, authorities confirmed on October 16 after the EU and Turkey struck a deal aimed at stemming a huge influx of refugees into the bloc. The killing late on October 16 which police said was accidental was the first of its kind in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II, the UN refugee agency said. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images
Herds of cows around a bridge where a Bulgarian border police officer shot dead one migrant from Afghanistan near the town of Sredets Credit: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV (Getty Images)

An Afghan asylum seeker was fatally wounded by Bulgarian border police when a warning shot ricocheted, officials said on Friday, in what the United Nations said is the first incident of its kind in the current migration crisis.

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The man was travelling with a large group of refugees from Afghanistan when confronted late on Thursday by a police patrol near the southeastern Bulgarian town of Sredets.

"We, at UNHCR, are deeply shocked by this incident," said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency.

"We deplore the death of an Afghan asylum seeker, trying to reach safety across the border. We call on the Bulgarian authorities to conduct an immediate, transparent and independent investigation. Seeking asylum is an universal human right and not a crime."

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Bulgarian border police officers observe the area near the town of Sredets where an Afghan migrant was shot dead Credit: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV (Getty Images)
Bulgarian border police officers observe the area near the town of Sredets where an Afghan migrant was shot dead Credit: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV (Getty Images)

The death prompted Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev to call for rapid action co-ordinated by the European Union to tackle the crisis. The EU this week has offered Turkey aid and closer ties in return for Ankara's help in staunching the flow of migrants.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov left an EU summit on refugees in Brussels and returned home after hearing of the incident.

The UNHCR said it was the first time an asylum seeker had been shot dead while trying to cross into Europe, which is struggling with an influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war or poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. More than 3,000 others have died, mainly by drowning.

The incident happened when a patrol of three officers was trying to contain a group of about 50 people some 30 km (18 miles) from the Bulgarian-Turkish border, said Georgi Kostov, chief secretary of the interior ministry.

"They put up resistance during the arrest," he told a news conference. "According to one of the officers, a warning shot has been fired in the air and one of the migrants was wounded by a ricochet and later died."

Read More: Turkish president criticises Europe as EU backs refugees action plan

Kostov said the men, who were said to be of Afghan origin and aged between 20 and 30, were detained and in good condition.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Credit: Thierry Charlier
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Credit: Thierry Charlier

Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating the incident.

Last year the campaign group Human Rights Watch accused Bulgaria of violating the rights of asylum seekers by forcing them back across its border into Turkey, sometimes violently. Bulgaria denied the accusation.

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The Black Sea state, a member of the European Union but not of its open-border Schengen Area, has deployed more border police, installed cameras and motion sensors, and is extending a security fence to cover 160 km (100 miles) of its frontier with Turkey.

Some 11,000 asylum seekers have entered Bulgaria since the start of 2015 and their number is expected to reach 15,000 by the end of the year. Most use Bulgaria as a transit route to wealthier countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Reuters

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