Rights group: Bulgaria uses police dogs in migrant pushbacks

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — An international rights group said Thursday that Bulgarian authorities are attacking Afghan and other asylum-seekers, using police dogs and other violence to illegally push them back over the border into Turkey.

Human Rights Watch said that the migrants reported being beaten, robbed and stripped.

“Bulgarian authorities are brutally and summarily pushing back migrants and asylum-seekers across the land border with Turkey,” said Michelle Randhawa, refugee and migrant rights officer at HRW.

“The European Union should ensure that Bulgaria immediately stops the illegal and dehumanizing pushbacks at its borders and allows asylum-seekers access to fair asylum procedures.”

Bulgaria’s government didn’t immediately respond to HRW’s report. But officials have previously denied mistreating migrants.

HRW said it interviewed 15 Afghans between November and April who told the organization that they were “victims of 19 pushbacks by Bulgarian authorities from Bulgaria to Turkey.”

In November, Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry said it was deploying troops and army vehicles along its southern border with Turkey to help border police deal with a growing number of migrants trying to enter the country.

The Balkan country of 7 million is located on a major route for migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan to Europe. Only a small number of them plan to stay in the EU’s poorest member, using Bulgaria instead as a transit corridor on their way westward.

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