Bulgaria to ‘isolate’ 1,000 migrants from Harmanli after riots


A thousand migrants who clashed with police Thursday will be moved from Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp in Harmanli into former army barracks near the Turkish border before being expelled, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said.

All necessary preparations will be made over the next week “so that we can isolate those who do not want to obey the rules,” Borisov said Friday while visiting the into former army barracks near the Turkish border b facility that now hosts just over 3,000 migrants — mainly from Afghanistan but also Syria.

The offenders — young Afghan men who lit fires and hurled stones at police on Thursday — will be moved to closed facilities, that are now being set up in the empty barracks near the Turkish border, prior to being sent home.

“They will be then expelled from Bulgaria as soon as possible,” Borisov said, adding that the first plane taking Afghan migrants out of the country is expected to leave in December.

Only Syrian families will remain in Harmanli from next year, Borisov added during a meeting with local residents who have long demanded the closure of the camp.

Several hundred police officers and water cannons were deployed Thursday to quash a riot by some 1,500 stone-hurling migrants, protesting against being kept shut inside the camp pending medical checks.

Twenty-nine police and 20 migrants were injured in the late night clashes as police pushed the migrants back into the buildings. Four hundred migrants were detained.

Borisov said Friday that the organiser of the riot was identified as an Afghan who was imprisoned in Germany for drug dealing before being expelled. The man, who arrived in Bulgaria four months ago, has been detained and will be immediately expelled.

Another 18 migrants were charged on Thursday with hooliganism after smashing windows and ruining furniture in the camp’s brand new canteen, local prosecutors announced.

Bulgaria meanwhile boosted the police presence in all refugee centres across the country.

Although the so-called Balkan migrant trail was effectively shut down in March, migrants have continued to cross the Balkans in smaller numbers.

Around 13,000 of them, mostly from Afghanistan, are currently trapped in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country.

There are also seething tensions in camps in neighbouring Greece.

© 2016 AFP

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