A nation suffering from “migration shock,” Bulgaria has long been in the news regarding its struggle contain the relentless wave of Muslim immigrants pouring over its southeastern border.
Bulgaria borders Turkey, which borders Syria, which borders Iraq. Bulgaria “registered 31,281 new arrivals in 2015, which represents 89.3 percent of all land arrivals in the EU for the same year,” according to a report by the International Organization for Migration reported by NBC News.
Like Turkey, Bulgaria has reinforced the border with wire fence. Still the onslaught continues, with 200 to 300 would-be immigrants caught attempting to cross illegally each week, according to Middle East Eye.
Although only government border patrols are legally sanctioned, Bulgaria has reportedly turned a blind eye to volunteer “militias” springing up to defend the border.
The latest of such groups is better trained, often armed, and has the implicit approval of the government. Bulgarian National Movement Shipka, abbreviated in Bulgarian as BNO Shipka, claims an unverified 50,000 members who view themselves as patriots.
“I’m not nationalistic or anything like that. I’m just a patriot,” said 34-year-old founding member Nikolai Ivanov. He says that ideology, not religion, is the issue. “It’s not a problem that they are Muslims. The problem is, it’s a different civilization. They don’t think like us, they have a totally different view about life, about everything.”