The Bulgarian parliament has unanimously voted in favour of authorising the army to police the nation’s borders and keep refugee flows under control.
On Thursday, all 137 members attending the vote backed the measure, which allows the government to deploy soldiers to the Turkish border with police authority.
|Inside a Bulgarian detention centre|
Bulgaria lies to the east of the main corridor of refugees heading for Western Europe through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.
It registered 27,000 refugee arrivals in 2015, far fewer than its neighbours.
On Wednesday, Bulgaria allocated 35 million leva ($20m) for the expansion of a 30km fence built in 2014 along the Turkish border.
Of the 130km planned, 60km of fencing has so far been built at the 275km-long Turkey-Bulgaria border.
The poorest country in the European Union since it joined in 2007, Bulgaria has a bad reputation among refugees and migrants, who frequently claim rights violations and abuse.
Since the beginning of 2016, more than 101,000 people have made the trek across the Mediterranean to Europe, according to the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency. However, many take the land route through Bulgaria via Turkey.
In November, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and Oxfam, an international charity, published a report detailing alleged abuses against refugees by Bulgarian police.
The report concludes that there is a “consistent picture of alleged violations” in Bulgaria.
Based on more than 100 interviews with refugees and migrants, the testimonies “tell of extortion, robbery, physical violence, threats of deportation and police dog attacks”.
The European Commission “should forcefully remind Bulgaria of EU laws and standards, and urge Bulgarian authorities to investigate these credible reports of abuses and bring them to a halt,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement earlier this month.