Turkey and Bulgaria signed on Thursday a readmission agreement linked to the EU-Turkey refugee deal that came into force on March 20.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala and his Bulgarian counterpart Rumyana Bachvarova signed the first bilateral protocol between Turkey and an EU state to take back refugees who do not receive asylum status in the 28-state bloc.
“The protocol will bring solutions for the migrant crisis between Turkey and Bulgaria, as well as Turkey and the EU,” Bachvarova said at the signing ceremony.
“This will also be a warning for migrant smugglers. I would like to note that the protocol between Turkey and Bulgaria will be the first among European Union countries,” Bachvarova underlined.
Bulgaria shares a 225 kilometre (140 mile) land border with Turkey which is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.
Turkey previously offered to sign readmission agreements with 14 countries, its foreign ministry indicated in early March, a move which would enable it to take back refugees rejected by the European Union more quickly.
Under a deal struck on March 18, the EU promised to provide Turkey with visa-free travel for its citizens, more financial aid and acceleration of EU membership talks.
In exchange, Turkey pledged to take back refugees who crossed into Europe illegally from its soil as of March 20. According to the deal, which is essentially aimed at stemming the refugee flow into Europe, for each refugee returned, the EU pledged to accept one already settled in Turkey.