UN deplores death of Afghan shot trying to enter Bulgaria

The death prompted Bulgaria’s president to call for rapid action co-ordinated by EU to tackle the crisis

Sofia, October 16

An Afghan asylum seeker was fatally wounded by Bulgarian border police when a warning shot ricocheted, Bulgarian officials said today, in what the United Nations said was the first incident of its kind in the current migration crisis.

The man was travelling with a large group of refugees from Afghanistan when confronted late on Thursday by a police patrol near the southeastern Bulgarian town of Sredets.

“We, at UNHCR, are deeply shocked by this incident,” said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency.

“We deplore the death of an Afghan asylum seeker, trying to reach safety across the border. We call on the Bulgarian authorities to conduct an immediate, transparent and independent investigation. Seeking asylum is a universal human right and not a crime.”

The death prompted Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev to call for rapid action co-ordinated by the European Union to tackle the crisis. The EU this week has offered Turkey aid and closer ties in return for Ankara’s help in staunching the flow of migrants.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov left an EU summit on refugees in Brussels and returned home after hearing of the incident.

The UNHCR said it was the first time an asylum seeker had been shot dead while trying to cross into Europe, which is struggling with an influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war or poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. More than 3,000 others have died, mainly by drowning.

The incident happened when a patrol of three officers was trying to contain a group of about 50 people some 30 km from the Bulgarian-Turkish border, said Georgi Kostov, chief secretary of the interior ministry.

“They put up resistance during the arrest,” he told a news conference. “According to one of the officers, a warning shot was fired in the air and one of the migrants was wounded by a ricochet and later died.”

Kostov said the men, who were said to be of Afghan origin and aged between 20 and 30, were detained and in good condition.

Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating the incident.