Bulgaria to expel 1,000 asylum seekers over violent protest: Premier

Refugees walk among Bulgarian policemen inside the Harmanli refugee center, near the Bulgarian border with Turkey, on November 25, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Bulgaria intends to move 1,000 refugees, who staged a violent protest, from a refugee camp to former army barracks near the border with Turkey before expelling them, the country's prime minister says.
Boyko Borisov made the remarks on Friday, a day after some 2,000 asylum seekers set Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp in the border town of Harmanli on fire and clashed with police after the facility was sealed off over reports of a disease outbreak.
Borisov further said that all necessary preparations would be made over the coming week in order to “isolate those who do not want to obey rules.”
During Thursday’s clashes police also fired water cannon and rubber bullets to quell the riot by the refugees angered at being confined to their Harmanli camp, which is home to 3,000 people, mostly Afghans. The refugees also allegedly broke windows and overturned trash containers.
“I am very worried... You see there is no window left unbroken. The people who committed these acts of vandalism will be brought to justice,” added Borisov, who had canceled his visit to Hungary because of the riot.
Some 400 refugees were arrested in connection with acts of vandalism late on Thursday, and according to the Interior Ministry, 24 police officers also sustained injuries during the clashes.
“Based on an agreement between the European Union and Afghanistan we have asked for a plane to start extraditing people there in early December. As for the rest, all who have acted brutally and violated public order will be moved to closed camps,” Borisov further told reporters.
The camp was also the scene of another protest in October, when several hundred refugees demanded that they be allowed to continue their journey toward Western Europe, particularly to Germany, their ideal destination.
Some 13,000 refugees have been registered in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, since the beginning of 2016, authorities say. The number registered in August doubled compared to the two previous months.
Europe has been facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame Western policies for the exodus of refugees from their home countries.