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news 29 Nov 13

Bulgaria Builds Wall to Keep Migrants Out

Critics say wall, due for completion in February, will not stop wave of migrants from entering, as it covers only a small section of the border.

Victor Kotsev

A 33-kilometer-long wall designed to keep Syrian refugees and other migrants from crossing the Bulgarian-Turkish border will be completed in February, the Bulgarian Interior Minister said on Thursday.

The first part of the project, which included repairing some 107 kilometres of roads, was already complete, Tsvetelin Iovchev told a joint press conference with the Defence Minister and army chiefs, adding that the refugee crisis would be under control “in a few weeks”.

Critics say that the three-metre high fence made of concrete and barbed wire and costing some 2.5 million euros will not stop the migrant wave, as it will cover only a small section of the 274-kilometre-long border.

“Such problems cannot be solved with walls, and especially by such a short wall,” said Evgenii Dainov, a professor of political science and sociology at New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

“This wall has one advantage, as it will redirect migrants toward the official border crossings, where they will be processed legally. But I don’t see how it can stop them…. This is a public relations exercise,” he added.

More than 10,000 refugees and economic migrants have crossed into Bulgaria from Turkey this year, the majority of them Syrians fleeing the brutal civil war raging in their country.

Many have encountered hostility and miserable living conditions in the EU’s poorest country, where xenophobic attacks and anti-immigrant sentiments have risen sharply over the last few months.

Bulgaria was caught unprepared by the refugee wave and was forced to house many migrants in makeshift camps and long-abandoned buildings, lacking basic sanitation.

A few weeks ago, some 200 Syrian refugees announced a hunger strike in the camp in Harmanli, a town in southern Bulgaria.

Though the country recently received some 5.6 million euros of EU aid for the refugees, the onset of cold weather and snow over the last days has exacerbated problems and made them more urgent.

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