UN Notes Encouraging Change in Bulgaria's Refugee Treatment

Society | January 11, 2014, Saturday // 15:56|  views

Some 10 000 refugees are currently in Bulgaria - the migration wave is unprecedented for the country as it has the capacity to accommodate about 5 000. Photo by BGNES

In recent weeks Bulgaria's Refugee Agency has seriously improved its work and there is encouraging change, according to Boris Cheshirkov, representative of the UN Refugee Agency in Bulgaria.

Speaking for the Bulgarian public radio BNR on Saturday, the representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated that improving conditions in refugee shelters could be only of benefit for Bulgaria, which is now on the path to build a sustainable and modern asylum system.

Cheshirkov said the improvement must be noted in the light of a recent statement of the UN Commissariat, urging countries from the EU to not transfer refugees back to Bulgaria over poor conditions.

"Currently, all asylum seekers have roofs over their heads; all buildings have heat, while the authorities are actively working to repair and refurbish all shelters, to build bathrooms," said he, cited by Dnevnik.bg.

According to him, in just weeks and even days, the staff of Bulgaria's Refugee Agency will increase twofold, compared to previous years, which will speed up procedures.

Part of the new staff is currently trained by employees from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and UNHCR. For two months now, the latter is providing hot meals that cover partially the need of them and will continue to do so until the end of January in the shelters in Harmanli, Pastrogor, Banya and Kovachevtsi. After that, the Bulgarian government will take over this task.

The official number of registered asylum seekers in Bulgaria is 7 500, which is not huge, but 7 times higher that before the Syrian conflict, Cheshirkov reminds, stressing reception conditions are improving; there are funds, however, the country has a long way to go and must now acquire experience in dealing with this type of problem.

He pointed out that a fence on the border is only a temporary solution as people will find other ways to cross it.

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Tags: Syrian, refugees, Bulgaria, nationalist, Syrians, European Union, UNHCR, refugee agency, Boris Cheshirkov, UN, shelters, asylum seekers, conditions, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


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