Greece, Bulgaria strengthen border control as Turkey clears crossings for migrants

Greece and Bulgaria have signaled heightened border control as Ankara declared it would no longer prevent migrants from passing over to Europe. While police troops have already been deployed to the Kastanies border in northeastern Greece, Bulgaria said it was poised to deploy 1,000 troops to its Turkish border.


Greece and Bulgaria are tightening controls at borders with Turkey after a declaration from Ankara on Feb. 27 that it would no longer prevent migrants from crossing into Europe.

As several dozen people gathered at the Kastanies border crossing, a land border between with Turkey, in the northeast of Greece Greek police buses could be seen preventing migrants from entering the country.

"They will not enter the country. They are irregular migrants, we won't let them enter," a government official told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria is poised to deploy up to 1,000 troops and military equipment to the border with neighboring Turkey in order to prevent illegal migrant inflows, the country's Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said on Feb. 28.

Border police prevented two groups of about 30 people from entering Bulgaria from Turkey early on Feb. 28, Karakachanov added.

Sofia said it would not allow massive migrant inflows at a time when it is stepping up preventive measures at the borders to avoid coronavirus spreading to the country. 

Greece served as the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming out of Turkey in a mass migration in 2015 and 2016, until a deal brokered with the EU stemmed the flow.

Bulgaria, a European Union member with a land border of more than 300 km (190 miles) with Turkey, has experienced little if any pressure from migrants seeking to cross the border in recent years.