SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria rejected accusations that its border guards shot a Syrian refugee in October after a video released Monday showed a man being fired at on European country’s border with Turkey.
The footage of an asylum-seeker being hit with live ammunition on Oct. 3 was part of a joint investigation by several European media outlets led by Lighthouse Reports.
In the video recorded on the Turkish side of the border, a young man falls to the ground after a bullet goes through his hand and into his chest.
The man, in separate footage captured days later, identified himself as 19-year-old Abdullah El Rustum of Syria. He said he was shot by Bulgarian border officers after his group was caught while illegally entering Bulgaria and pushed back to Turkey.
The Bulgarian government denied the allegations, arguing that servicemembers guarding the border strictly followed international and domestic laws.
“There are no cases of violence against migrants,” Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev told reporters.
Demerdzhiev said foreign media have reported more frequently lately about migration across the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The joint investigation led by Lighthouse Reports included British broadcaster Sky News, French newspaper Le Monde, SRF, U.K newspaper The Times, Italian newspaper Domani, RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service and German broadcaster ARD.
Asked about the Oct. 3 encounter, the minister said: “Just recently, an incident that we have been investigating for a long time with our Turkish colleagues has become public.”
“There are clear conclusions from both sides that there is no evidence that a shot has been fired by a Bulgarian border policeman and that no active actions have been taken to violate anyone’s human rights,” Demerdzhiev said.
He added that border officers recently have faced more aggression from people trying to enter Bulgaria without authorization, including some who used stones and knives.
“If anyone expects that the Bulgarian police will not respond to such actions, they are wrong,” Demerdzhiev said.