Bulgaria Slates Funds for Sweden-Stranded Berry Pickers

Diplomacy | July 25, 2012, Wednesday // 13:55|  views

The Bulgarian Council of Ministers building in downtown Sofia. File photo

The Bulgarian Council of Ministers voted at their regular meeting Wednesday to slate emergency funding for the Bulgarian citizens stranded in the Swedish capital Stockholm.

The news was reported for the media by Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov. The estimated amount that will be needed to bring the Bulgarians home is BGN 150 000.

The decision was made after the spokesperson of the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Vessela Cherneva, stated earlier that the Bulgarian Embassy in Sweden will not provide funding for the stranded people. Cherneva stressed Bulgarian embassies never provide money to fellow citizens. She reiterated that the Embassy is currently supplying the stranded group with bread, water, and coffee when needed; has provided them with a bus to sleep in, and with a portable WC.

In his report, Mladenov underlined that the funding is a one-time decision that should not be used for creating a precedent.

He explained the move with the large number of Bulgarians in distress in Sweden, and the growing social tensions in some groups there, thus the need of emergency evacuation.

According to the Minister, those who have gathered in front of the Bulgarian Embassy in Stockholm are only part of the entire group, while there are others across Sweden, bringing the total to several hundred Bulgarians in need of assistance.

The Bulgarian Labor Attach?, stationed in Berlin, will travel to Stockholm as early as Wednesday to assist the Bulgarian Embassy there. People from the Interior Ministry, including a Deputy Interior Minister and a Deputy Social Policy Minister, if needed, will be sent there as well.

It was reported Sunday that some 200 Bulgarian citizens have gathered outside the country's embassy in Stockholm, waiting to be supplied with tickets in order to return home.

The Bulgarian citizens had been lured to Sweden with the promise of work during the berry picking season, but were then left to fend for themselves in the forests, local media informed.

According to the Bulgarian Embassy in Stockholm, the berry pickers were brought to Sweden by an as yet unidentified person, believed to be a Bulgarian national, and they had been forced to survive in trying conditions.

Some of the berry pickers have been able to return home. However, others have been left in the hands of the Stockholm Embassy or with the hope of help from family or friends.

According to police, it is unclear if any of the 200 people gathered near the embassy are connected to a 43-year-old Bulgarian resident who was arrested on Thursday after allegedly luring other Bulgarian citizens into coming to Sweden with the promise of a salary, a home, and a job.

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Tags: Council of Ministers, Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, spokesperson, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Vessela Cherneva, embassy, Stockholm, Sweden, Bulgarian citizens, berry pickers, funds, funding, evacuation


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