Tusk to ask EU states to help stop illegal migrants reaching Bulgaria

September 9, 2016 10:48 AM EDT

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TALLINN (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk will next week ask EU leaders to approve sending guards and equipment to Bulgaria to help protect its border against flows of illegal migrants from Turkey, following complaints from Sofia.

Some 1.3 million refugees and migrants arrived in the European Union last year, most via Bulgaria's neighbor Turkey, and Sofia said it fears another major influx if a deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the numbers breaks down.

Tusk said he will make the request at a summit of the 27 EU states minus Britain next week in Bratislava, which he will chair and which will focus on the bloc's post-Brexit future, including its response to irregular migration.

"I will appeal to all 27 leaders ...to send concrete operational support to Bulgaria to protect its border with Turkey, in the form of border guards and equipment," Tusk told a joint news conference with Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas.

The former Polish prime minister is touring EU capitals before the Bratislava summit.

The inflow into Europe via its eastern borders of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond has slowed dramatically in recent months due to tighter border controls and the EU/Turkey deal.

Meanwhile, numbers of migrants entering Europe across the Mediterranean via North Africa have increased sharply.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said in August he would seek closer ties with Turkey as he was disenchanted with EU steps to control the migrant flows from the Middle East.

(Reporting by David Mardiste, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by John Stonestreet)

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