1 Libyan Refugee in Bulgaria, Migration Tide Fears Watered Down

Diplomacy | March 29, 2011, Tuesday // 09:44|  views

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the port of Italian island of Lampedusa, 27 March 2011. EPA/BGNES

Only one Libyan citizen has sought asylym in Bulgaria as a result of the war in Libya, where dictator Muammar Gaddafi is facing a popular uprising and an international coalition's air power.

With only one Libyan refugee in Bulgaria so far, the Bulgarian government does not expect a huge refugee wave from Libya, announced Nikola Kazakov, head of the State Refugees Agency at the Council of Ministers, as cited by BTA.

Kazakov pointed out that a special operational headquarters of the Bulgarian authorities is following closely the migration situation in Libya and wider North Africa and is prepared to react to any dynamics.

Ever since the onset of the recent revolutions and civil unrest in the Arab world – in Tunisia and Egypt in January, in Libya and elsewhere, Bulgaria has been concerned about the possibility of being inundated by a large number of illegal immigrants and/or refugees – much the way Greece, the closes Schengen Area member to most of the Arab countries - has been in the past year, leading to the deployment of a mission of EU Frontex agency on the Greek-Turkish border.

The head of Bulgaria's State Refugees Agency Kazakov did also mention that no Japanese citizens have sought refuge in Bulgaria after the March 11 earthquake and the nuclear crisis in Japan's Fukushima NPP – even though there had been hardly any expectations that Japanese citizens might want to flee from these disasters into Bulgaria.

Kazakov pointed out that primarily citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan are seeking refuge in Bulgaria, and that those are mostly "economic migrants" not fleeing violence in their home country.

He also announced that within one month Bulgaria will be opening a "transit center for people seeking refuge" located in the village of Pastrogor, Svilengrad Municipality, right off the border with Turkey, with a capacity to host 300 people.

Kazakov's statement about receiving one Libyan refugee in Bulgaria comes just as the first boats with refugees from Libya started to reach the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean, which is already flooded with Tunisian refugees.

According to latest data of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a total of 1025 foreigners sought refugee status in Bulgaria in 2010, a 12% increase compared with 2009. The data for 44 industrialized states including Bulgaria, however, shows that the overall number of asylum seekers declined by half.

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Tags: Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, Arab world, civil unrest, Lampedusa, Italy, greece, Frontext, refugees, refufee, asylum seekers, Asylum, Svilegrad, pastrogor, Nikola Kazakov, State Agency for Refugees, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan


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