SOFIA: The European Union's poorest country Bulgaria launched an appeal on Tuesday for financial support from the bloc to help it cope with an influx of people fleeing Syria's civil war.
" Bulgaria has proven itself as a reliable partner within the European Union. We have shown that we can protect the EU's outer border, while undertaking a serious burden ourselves," Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said in the town of Elhovo, on the southeastern border with Turkey.
Bulgaria has already filled in an application for financial aid from the European Commission to help process and accommodate the ever-growing numbers of refugees, mostly Syrian, illegally crossing over the border from neighbouring Turkey and Greece, he added.
To date, 4,010 people, including 1,465 Syrians, are currently seeking refugee status in Bulgaria. Another 1,000 people were also being held at the borders but were yet to decide whether to apply for protection, ministry data showed.
The country's three refugee centres -- with space for only 1,100 people -- have long been overflowing with migrants, prompting the government to put people in detention centres and start an urgent search for buildings that can be turned into shelters.
Yovchev said the government would also study the possibilities of transferring some of the migrants to other EU member states.
Bulgaria's Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov meanwhile urged prosecutors in the border regions to be more lenient, saying that it was "justified" not to fine people crossing the border with their children, even if strictly speaking it was illegal.
More than two million people have fled Syria since the war broke out there in 2011, mostly to neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.