According to a research by the ARD studio in Vienna in cooperation with Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, RFE/RL, Solomon and inews – which was published in the beginning of December 2023 – at least 93 people died on their way through Bulgaria in the last two years alone.
The research team spoke with forensic pathologists in Bulgaria and people whose family members had gone missing or died on the route. The people on the run are usually dying because of exhaustion and cold on their route, which leads through mountains, bushes and the countryside. The last case was reported on the 27th of November 2023 by the Bulgarian authorities. Additionally there is a fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border which was constructed already in 2013 and replaced and modified in the following years with a bigger one. Additionally to this numerous car accidents are happening regularly. Some of them are fatal.
But not only the dangerous way is the problem for the people on the run, there is also the Bulgarian border police, which is accused of brutal Push-Backs. According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee only in 2022 almost 90.000 people where affected by push-backs. Also young people with their families and unaccompanied minors are at risk to be push-backed, as the NGOs “Center for legal aid – Voice in Bulgaria“ and “Mission Wings“ found out, while conducting interviews in Turkey. For 2023 Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov stated that that app 165,000 ‚illegal entry attempts‘ at the Bulgarian-Turkish were prevented.
With regard to Bulgaria, the fundamental rights officer of the EU border protection authority Frontex became active in a total of seven internally reported cases regarding possible violations of fundamental rights, the authority said in response to a request from ORF. In the beginning of December 2023. All cases concern pushback allegations from Bulgaria to Turkey, a Frontex spokeswoman said. At least 232 Frontex officers were deployed in Bulgaria in 2023.