Feature 25 Apr 16

Bulgaria Makes Stars of Vigilante Migrant Hunters

Videos of their actions have caused outrage abroad, but at home the groups of self-appointed migrant ‘hunters’ who patrol Bulgaria’s border with Turkey enjoy broad support.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia-Burgas-Malko Tarnovo
Supporters of Petar Nizamov protest in Burgas after his arrest for illegally detaining three Afghan migrants. | Photo: BIRN

Hristo, Biser and Georgi, three young Bulgarians from the coastal city of Burgas, do not look like vigilantes.

It is hard to imagine them joining the self-appointed patrols that have become notorious for “capturing” migrants on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

Dressed casually and seated on a bench in the scenic garden of Burgas, they do not look the uniformed toughs shown patrolling the border area in numerous amateur videos.

Biser Roussimov, a 30-year-old party promoter, is constantly on the telephone, talking to different media outlets that want to join the border “walks” of their formation, the  “Organization for Protection of Bulgarian citizens”, or OPBC.

 “The media attention is annoying and exhausting,” Georgi Bratanov, 29, owner of a small grocery store says, stressing that they do not seek popularity from their activities.

“We are united by patriotism and by the idea of helping society,” Roussimov told BIRN.

“Patriotism” is the key word that ultra-nationalists groups use to justify their “hunts” for irregular migrants on the border with Turkey.  

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