Interior: 8 000 Await Refugee Status in Bulgaria

Defense | November 22, 2013, Friday // 13:05|  views

A Syrian man and children are pictured at the Military Ramp refugee center in Bulgaria's capital Sofia. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Currently, there are 9 820 recently-arrived immigrants in Bulgaria, with 8 000 of them expecting to obtain refugee status, according to Deputy Interior Minister, Vasil Marinov.

Marinov spoke Friday during a round table titled "Lost Borders – the New EU Refugee and Immigration Policy." He said that there were 1 230 illegal immigrants among those who have crossed the border lately.

According to him, there are now 400 Algerians in Bulgaria, and 300 Afghani, all awaiting deportation. A flight is also being organized to taka hundreds of Iraqis back to their homeland.

439 people have crossed Bulgaria's southern border illegally in July, 1 018 – in August, 3 626 in October, and another 1 282 since the beginning of November, Marinov further reported.

He stated the Interior Ministry had an action plan, aiming at limiting the number of illegal immigrants to 100 people a month, and deporting about 200 a month from those already in Bulgaria.

At the same round table, Defense Minister, Angel Naydenov, noted the army cannot be assigned the role of being the key player when dealing with the refugee wave. He noted that both indifference and xenophobia regarding immigrants must be condemned.

"The refugee wave can reach enormous proportions as 2.2 million people have already left Syria. Our assessment is that the migration influx will persist and even increase in the next 6 months," Angelov said.

According to him, nearly 60% of immigrants in Bulgaria came from Syria and are legitimate asylum seekers, however 80% of those crossing the border did not have any ID documents.

At the same forum, Sergey Stanishev, leader of the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, pointed out 10 000 refugees in Bulgaria were a much bigger problem than 100 000 in Germany.

He further stated the new Fund for Immigration must be sufficiently subsidized by the European Commission and other EU institutions.

Socialist MEP, Ilyana Yotova, explained the Fund will have EUR 4 M and informed that EC will send a mission to Bulgaria in January 2014 to check conditions in local refugee shelters.

The migration wave, caused mainly by the Syrian conflict, is unprecedented for Bulgaria as it has the capacity to accommodate about 5 000.

The country is the gateway to the European Union for refugees fleeing Syria via Turkey, many crossing the border illegally. However, along with asylum seekers from Syria, a large number of people from North Africa and the Middle East have also arrived illegally through the southern border with Turkey.

Bulgaria has shown both the lack of preparedness of state institutions to accommodate the refugees, as well as the latent xenophobia of parts of Bulgarian society.

The deplorable conditions in many Bulgaria refugee shelters have stirred tensions and hunger strikes. The latest incident occurred Thursday when scores of refugees, accommodated at a camp in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, staged a spontaneous protest against the harsh situation there after a young Syrian man died in the morning.

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Tags: Syrian, refugees, Bulgaria, camp, Shelter, shelters, refugee wave, influx, Syria, illegal immigrants, refugee status, asylum seekers, Deputy Interior Minister, Vasil marinov, Defense Minister, Angel Naydenov, Sergey Stanishev, BSP, MEP, Iliyana Yotova


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