Many of Bulgaria's Children in Institutions Live in Substandard Conditions - CE Commissioner

Bulgaria in EU | February 22, 2012, Wednesday // 14:07|  views

Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, holds a speech during the opening of the exhibition `60 Years of Conventions on Human Rights` at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, 27 October 2010. EPA/

Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has warned that the conditions of children living in institutions and the protection of minorities continue to be a cause for concern in Bulgaria.

In a media statement published Wednesday, he acknowledges the progress achieved so far, but draws attention to the fact that the situation of children living in some institutions remains seriously substandard.

"There have been allegations of cases in which children with disabilities were subjected to practices of malnourishment, violence, physical restraint and incapacitating drugs in the institutions where they lived. Medical assistance and basic needs were sometimes denied or provided too late, " Hammarberg cautions.

He recommends that the government focus on the plans to phase out the system of institutional care of children as a matter of priority.

The CE Human Rights Commissioner is hopeful that the new law on education will guarantee access to quality education also to children with intellectual disabilities.

He argues that the ongoing discussions on a draft Child Protection Act are an opportunity to ensure a rights-based policy for the protection of all children in the country.

Hammarberg goes on to say that the Roma population in Bulgaria remains socially excluded and marginalized with restricted access to adequate housing, education and medical service.

"The new 2012-2020 National Strategy for Roma Integration should be given full implementation, including by achieving short-term goals, such as the improvement of housing and health conditions of many Roma living in settlements without a regular water supply, electricity, gas and heating," the CE Human Rights Commissioner notes.

He explains that the fact that many Roma families continue to live in substandard conditions or are homeless is due to forced evictions, which he says should be avoided whenever possible.

"When this is not possible, international standards require the provision of adequate alternative accommodation, legal remedies, compensation and protection from homelessness," he adds.

Commissioner Hammarberg also calls for effective investigations of cases of racist attacks against members of Roma communities and of complaints of police brutality.

In conclusion, he welcomes the declaration adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament on 11 January 2012 condemning the assimilation process against the Muslim minority.

Hammarberg recommends that a just solution for the victims of forced assimilation be found, "including on the issue of the pension rights of those ethnic Turks who had to leave for Turkey and whose premiums paid and time spent in Bulgaria are still not being accounted for".

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Tags: Council of Europe, human rights, children in institutions, minorities, Roma, Roma population, police brutality, social exclusion, healthcare, education, government


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