Syrian Refugees in Bulgaria Are No Grave Problem

Editorial |Author: Iossif Davidov | September 10, 2013, Tuesday // 20:51|  views

While politicians and public figures in Bulgaria are busy speculating as to whether the country should become (or not) directly involved in the "unique" crisis in Syria (that definition was made by the Bulgarian EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva), a report by the AFP made in the Balkan country has gone across world media, including Arab ones.

The report comes from the refugee camp that has the  capacity to accommodate 1100 people and which was founded on March 15, 2011 in the town of Lyubimets in the region of Haskovo near the Bulgarian border with Turkey.

Several Syrian refugees were cited, explaining they had paid to Turkish citizens to guide them through the Bulgarian Strandzha Mountain and to help them enter in Bulgaria illegally. The people were crying out "Freedom!", "Help us go out" to the journalists.

Evidence show that there were hunger strikes and mass protests both in the camp of Lubimets where the Syrian nationals were "crowded like sardines" and in the other refugee camp, located near the village of Busmantsi in the Sofia region.

Those rallies were triggered by mass discontent, because in refugees camps in other countries, the refugees are allowed to go out as the international standards impose, while in Bulgaria they are kept imprisoned.

37-year old Beshar Selim shouted through one of the windows of the premises to a journalist: "I am a Syrian sociologist. They have been keeping me and my family inside as prisoners for over 67 days."

Dzhana Hussein from Damascus says that she has been sharing a common room with seven other families. "Help us go out!" begged the woman.

According to EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Reaction Kristalina Georgieva, among the 2 M Syrian refugees who fled their war torn homeland since the beginning of the war, only 45,000 are in Europe, and half of them are in Germany and in Sweden. The rest are in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

In comparison: official data show that this year 1,670 Syrians have come to Bulgaria, while for the same period in 2012, they were only 200. Georgieva reminds that there are EU funds "aiming to protect the state borders, to accommodate refugees and to facilitate their intended return back in their homeland as well as their integration."

It is not clear whether Bulgaria has filed an application to be financed by these funds.

It is supposed that the influx of the Syrian refugees will increase but probably not much. This means that the country must be capable to carry out one of the basic humanitarian acts as a normal civil society should do towards any suffering human beings. Unfortunately, the negative attitudes towards those people in the Bulgarian forums in the social networks prevail.

Officially, within 3 to 12 months the country must provide the Syrian legal and illegal new-comers in the country with the statute of refugees and to permit them move freely across the country and look for a job. The APF report shows that most of the refugees are in despair because of the dominating red tape in the country and have even given up filling in the necessary documents.

Where has been lost the alleged traditional Bulgarian hospitality? Where is now the historically known humanity of the Bulgarian, which was once shown to the Armenian refugees after the Turkish massacres at the early years of the last century and to their compatriots, the Jewish during the years of the Second World War...?

At the end of 1989 and at the beginning of 1990 hundreds of Bulgarians arrived in Spain with one-month valid visas (the Spanish Embassy in Sofia used to give visas quite easily). Most of them were men and professionals - painters, musicians, engineers, economists, architects, students. There were whole families. When their visas got expired, they became "illegal residents in the country"  and the authorities in charge had to extradite them.

Instead of relying on that law, the police sent them to the Spanish Red Cross and to other religious and public non-governmental organizations. The Red Cross issued them identification cardboards, where it was written that they are refugees. It moreover gave them some money, offered them food in the public canteens and directed them to some job positions, although theoretically they had no right to work in the country as they were still "illegal."

Labor inspections closed their eyes and many of the refugees worked under the counter while their permissions to live and work on the territories of the country were ready. Today, most of these "first settled Spanish Bulgarians" are well integrated, respected and successful. Probably it is not far-fetched the statement that the Syrians who have succeeded to come into Bulgaria after crossing the whole Turkey, have significant intellectual and material potential.

Bulgaria could only profit if the authorities settle the situation and the Syrians be able to be part of the social life in the country. The possible objection regarding the so-called "effect of the call" (meaning the refugees calling up their relatives to come to the country) is not valid. "The effect of the call" acts only when the host country experiences an economic boom as it was the case with Spain in the early 90s of the last century.

It is obvious that the situation in Bulgaria now is much different. In short, those suffering people should immediately receive true compassion, institutional support. They should be assisted to come out of the state of imprisonment described in the AFP report. Humanity requires it. The Syrian refugees are not such a grave problem for our country.

And what is said and written about Bulgaria in the world press is not without importance. Our name originated long ago and it is intolerable to smear our reputation so easily.

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Tags: turkey, Busmantsi, lyubimets, Jewish, Armenian, Kristalina Georgieva, EU, EU funds, refugees, Syrian, Syria, Spain, Damascus, war


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