(Photo: Onislam)

Sofia, 4  Muharram/17 October 2015 (MINA) – The United Nations refugee agency has vehemently condemned the death of a refugee, who was shot by border guards near the Bulgarian town of Sredets, calling for immediate and transparent investigations into the incident.

“We, at UNHCR, are deeply shocked by this incident,” Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, told Reuters on Friday, (10/16).

“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 an universal human right and not a crime.”

Describing the incident as the “first of its kind in the current migration crisis”, the UN refugee agency condemned the use of power against migrants, Onislam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

According to the interior ministry, the man was among a large group of refugees traveling from Afghanistan.

“A big group of illegal migrants attempted to enter Bulgaria from Turkey. One man suffered a gunshot wound in the incident and died on the way to hospital,” an interior ministry spokeswoman told Agence France Presse (AFP).

A patrol of two border guards and a police officer intercepted 50 people after crossing into Bulgarian territory, the ministry added.

“They put up resistance during the arrest,” Georgi Kostov, chief secretary of the interior ministry told a news conference.

“According to one of the officers, a warning shot has been fired in the air and one of the migrants was wounded by a ricochet and later died.”

The refugees, who were said to be of Afghan origin and aged between 20 and 30, were destined and in good condition, according to Kostov.

After hearing of the incident, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov left an EU summit on refugees in Brussels.

“Prime Minister Borisov informed me just before he left. It shows how important our discussion was We are ready to help rebuilding of control of our external borders,” European council president Donald Tusk said in Brussels.

On his part, Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev called for swift EU action to tackle the crisis.

About 10,600 asylum requests have been admitted to Europe’s poorest country, during the first eight months of 2015.

The country has been accused of forcing hundreds of refuges back across its border into Turkey, violating the rights of asylum seekers.

Some 350,000 migrants have made the perilous journey to reach Europe’s shores since January this year, according to figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM said more than 2,600 migrants had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in the same period.

According to official figures, Muslims, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of the Ottoman Empire’s reach into Europe, make up more than 12 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.8 million population.

The Muslim community’s population percentage in Bulgaria is the highest proportion in any European Union member state. (T/Imt/R04)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)