By Aleksandar Vasovic and Angel Krasimirov
Migrants coming through Bulgaria have faced beatings, threats and other abuses by police, a rights groups reported on Friday, though the country’s own refugee agency said it had received no such complaints.
Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq reported extortion, robbery, violence, threats of deportation and police dog attacks, according to a survey by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights that was funded by Oxfam.
An Interior Ministry spokesman declined to comment immediately, saying he might respond in coming days.
Bulgaria is one of a number of central and eastern European countries struggling to handle the region’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since World War Two.
The EU member state, and two other countries on the migration route – Hungary and Slovenia – have erected fences to try and control the flow of people, many of them trying to pass through onto Austria and Germany.
The report said the majority of alleged abuses took place in southern areas bordering Turkey, at holding centres inside Bulgaria and at the northwestern border with Serbia.
“Two Afghan men stated that (Bulgarian) police officers had shot at them … wounding two,” the report by the Serbia-based rights group said.
“A group of around 10 interviewees witnessed a police officer holding a gun to a refugee’s forehead … Police caught up with the group, beat them, took their valuables, food and water,” it said.
An Afghan refugee was shot dead near the Turkey-Bulgaria border on Oct 15, a killing condemned by the United Nations.
Nikolina Milic from the Belgrade centre said staff had also asked refugees about conditions in Turkey and Serbia, but they had only complained about the treatment in Bulgaria.
Avgustina Videva, a spokeswoman for Bulgaria’s refugees agency, said it had no information about alleged abuses.
“None of those who are accommodated in the refugee centres have complained about mistreatment by Bulgarian authorities,” Videva told Reuters.
Bulgaria expects to see around 15,000 refugees entering the country by the end of the year.