Only 13 refugees in Bulgaria receive social assistance from the state

In March 2017, it came out to be known that only 13 refugees in Bulgaria receive social money as a social help from the Bulgarian state, because of their disabilities. Apart from that, no other refugee in Bulgaria gets cash in some form of subsistence. The 65 Leva (33EUR)  a month were already taken away in 2015, two years ago.

The deportations from other countries to Bulgaria went on in March, but in small numbers. Until the end of March 2017, Bulgaria accepted 146 people back: from Germany 53, from Austria 38 and 19 from Hungary. To the 30th of March 2017, the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) accommodated 5,190 people its centers. In April 2017, Bulgaria was criticized of not fulfilling the quota for resettlement of refugees from other European countries.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced that they have arrested 790 “illegal“ migrants from January until mid-April 2017 with a current number of having 569 migrants in its closed centers. But that doesn’t mean at all that there is not more migration movement through the country, many people cross without registration and therefore they are only visible when they are being caught by the authorities: Already in March, 28 migrants were found in a burning lorry at the near of the Bulgarian-Turkish border and at the end of April 2017 53 migrants were caught, while they wanted to cross a danubian bridge in Ruse, near Romania. Some days later the police arrested five people while trying to smuggle themselves with a van through the same region.

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A huge number of migrants leave Bulgaria

Recently, the State Agency for Refugee (SAR) and the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior (MoI) stated in a report that already thousands of people had left Bulgaria, this year. In January 2017, more than 2210 migrants had already left the country and in February 903 people were reported to be ‚disappeared‘. In March more than 400 people left Bulgaria. By the end of February, Bulgarian authorities stopped 1022 migrants at the Bulgarian-Serbian border. For 2016, the SAR granted a lot less the refugee status for asylum seekers than 2015. Nevertheless, the applications for asylum in 2016 were only 5% less than 2016. Until the end of January 2017, the SAR recorded 421 new asylum applications.

The trend outlined above might go on at the moment. A spokesperson of the Serbian Defence Ministry announced, that there is more “migrant pressure“ in the last days from Bulgaria and Macedonia. The institution registered more attempts of crossing the Serbian border ‚illegally‘ from both countries. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) predicts that, if the conditions for migrants won’t get better in Bulgaria, such a trend will definitely go on in the near future.

Update: Meanwhile the UNHCR Serbia reported about a collective deputation, of 25 Afghan migrants (mainly families), from Serbia back to Bulgaria in February.

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Refugee family with a status has to leave Belene

Some days ago, a Syrian family, who already received a status, was welcomed by the Catholic church in Belene in the north of Bulgaria. But this was a problem for Krasimir Todorov, a municipal councilor, who organized some locals to protest against the family and the priest Paolo Cortesi, who helped the family.

Last year, the Syrian family came originally via Greece within the relocation sheme and was coordinated from the State Agency for Refugees in Bulgaria (SAR) to the Catholic community of Belene. Now the family has to leave again, because of the tensions in the city of Belene. Fr. Cortesi announced, the church is going to stop its charity-activity in the town.

As of today, 07.03.2017,

every [charity] activities of the church are on hold. If you need anything contact the mayor of Belene whose duties are to take care of the citizens in need.

Father Paolo Cortesi

 

Recently, a Syrian family with a humanitarian status wasn’t given their documents by the mayor of Elin Pelin and several Bulgarian municipalities refused to accommodate two Afghan boys. The European Commission recently criticized Bulgaria for not fulfilling the quotes of the EU-relocation scheme. After Fr. Cortesi received several death threats and unknown people had announced to burn down the church, the Catholic Church decided to withdraw him from Belene. Some weeks later, the church burned actually and parts got nearly destroyed.

Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) insists that hate speech against refugees and their supporters shall be taken very seriously by the Bulgarian authorities. They shall ensure that refugees are treated in a humane, non-discriminatory and respectful manner. The everyday racism, which exists in large parts of the Bulgarian society, has to be opposed by the administrative bodies. The responsibility for sheltering people in need should not only be outsourced to the church or other organizations.

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Mayor of Elin Pelin tells Syrian family with humanitarian status to leave

The mayor, Ivaylo Simeonov, of the Bulgarian town of Elin Pelin has told a Syrian family with a humanitarian status (for Bulgaria) to leave and is refusing to issue them ID documents. The Syrian family, who has arrived with their six years old sun in the country, stated that leaving the town is no option, because the same problems would occur somewhere else. The eldest son of the family, who already lived and worked three years in Bulgaria, had organized the accommodation in Elin Pelin. In the following days Bulgarian media echoed xenophobic, racist and anti-humanitarian statements from different persons, without opposing it.

Certainly, this case cannot be seen as an isolated one. Recently, the mayor of the village Shiroka Laka, stated that two unaccompanied Afghans should not live in a municipal institution. Afterwards the adolescents were not accepted in Haskovo and Plovdiv, too. Already in April 2014, 17 Syrian holders of humanitarian status, six children among them, were chased out of Rozovo. Their presence in the village sparked protests on the part of the local population and after three days protest, the Syrian families were chased out of the village.

In numerous cases in Bulgaria xenophobia and racism is very visible and not criticized by many people publicly. But, In the case of Elin Pelin, some locals organized a protest to show their solidarity with the Syrian family. Furthermore, they demanded an explanation from the mayor of the city for his behavior.

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Human Rights are still negotiable in Bulgaria

According to the State Agency for Refugees (SAR), 19,418 asylum applications were registered in Bulgaria (mainly by Afghan, Syrians and Iraqi nationals) last year. From all Afghan asylum seekers, 2,5% of them got a positive decision. Currently, the SAR suggests that 3,728 asylum seekers are accommodated in the open centers and the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Interior stated that 984 are living in “closed-type“ centers. Now, two reception centers, managed by the SAR, are existing as closed centers: One part of the center in the outskirt of Harmanli, which opened after the riot in November 2016 and another one opened in the same center already in August.

At the beginning of this month, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) published an update of their Bulgarian report, which was done by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC). In terms of integration support, the published report speaks about 2016 as a third “zero integration“ year. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) asked the Bulgarian Red Cross recently about a pilot project which was in force between August 2015 and June 2016. It was created to support housing for refugees. During this time only seven refugees profited from that program. In December 2016, the Human Rights Committee ruled out that a Syrian family, currently living in Denmark with a Bulgarian residence permit, would not be protected concerning “accessing health care, or risks of destitution and hardship“ in Bulgaria. In the paper, a report of BMB was cited.

Until today, the situation regarding to access to territory has not changed, too. The Bulgarian police still continues to „apprehend irregular arrivals, to fingerprint and detain them for deportation“, one could read in the report of ECRE. In addition, the BHC registered an increasing number of violent push-backs in 2016.

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Two more migrants die in Bulgaria’s Borderland

On the 6th of January, the Bulgarian Border Police made the case of two more dead people public, who were found by villagers near the village of Izvor in the region of Burgas near the Strandzha mountain massif. They had died of exposure to low temperatures. It was reported that the two Iraqi men were 28 and 35 years old. Only four days ago a Somali woman died in the same region.

Every year several migrants die in Bulgaria on their way to cross Bulgaria’s borderland – especially in the winter period. Actually nobody knows how many people died all in all in Bulgaria’s borderlands in the last years, because there is no statistics available. Often migrants who passed through the region report about corpses, which they had seen in the woods. The migrants try to cross in the mountain region where there is no fence blocking the way. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) calls the Bulgarian authorities to rethink their politics towards refugees as a whole and asks them additionally to collect statistics about the various deaths which happen in the border region.

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Breaking News: Woman dies near the Bulgarian-Turkish border

Yesterday, the Bulgarian border police found the corpse of a woman near the village of Ravadinovo in southeastern Bulgaria. A group of 31 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, which was detained one day before, said to the authorities they had to leave the woman, because she was too weak to go on. Two other members of the group, 14-and 16-years old teenagers, were brought to hospital because of frostbite.

This is the first human being who was killed by the European border system in Bulgaria, in 2017. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) argues that the new installed European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which came into force on October the 6th 2016 at Bulgaria’s Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint, cannot stop incidents like this. Therefore, it is tremendously important to create legal passages to prevent these kind of tragedies.

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„It stinks.“

The following contribution is an English translation of a report, which was written by the human rights lawyer Valeria Ilareva, from the Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) which was published in December 2016.

My day begins with a legal hearing at 9am. The case is of the more serious sort, but I’m eased by the thought that we’re at a judge. Meaning that among „the judges“ exist only a small number of actual judges – those trying to decide their cases objectively and without biases. Even in the event of a verdict to your client’s disadvantage, you nevertheless know that the hearing was carried out with humane attitude and the outcome of the lawsuit wasn’t predetermined. During the hearing the judge acts unusually irritated and reacts sharply on the preliminary submitted request for taking of evidence. She mentions that the most overburdened judges are facing disciplinary procedures for delaying lawsuits. I answer that I understand her and that I am doing everything within my possibilities not to slow down the case. I indeed understand her. At 11am the judges from the Sofia Regional Court hold a protest in front of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Weiterlesen

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Harmanli: The days after the riot

It was reported that after the riots, in the night, around 9 p.m. the police stormed into the three buildings, which are inhabited by asylum seekers predominantly from Afghanistan. They have beaten severely all men and teenage boys for two hours and broke doors, windows and other things. A 15 year old Afghani boy with a broken skull is in a very critical condition and a medically induced coma. He was already part of an escort accompanied by policemen, who tried to send him to the closed camp in Elhovo. After it was recognized, that he has serious problems, the teenager was first treated in a hospital in Yambol and afterwards transported to the the hospital in Stara Zagora. There an emergency operation was carried out.

Since two days, the health checks in Harmanli have started. The Bulgarian authorities have announced openly that new fences will be constructed around the camp. It was also announced that the former Transitcenter in Pastrogor will turn into a closed camp. Afghan habitants of the camps are blamed by the authorities that they have started the riot and bigger parts of the Bulgarian media propagated this.

It was stated by the State Agency for Refugees (SAR), that Afghans will be deported back to Afghanistan. For now, they are offered voluntary deportation, even if their cases are not decided, yet. 40 people already signed such a paper. If they do not want to, they are threatened to get imprisoned after they had to go in front of the court. After the first trials against the 18 people who were are arrested in Harmanli for rioting everybody of them (three of them underaged) will remain in custody.

Meanwhile there were statements made by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and the UNHCR: The UNHCR spokesman urged, that asylum seekers should not be deported on national security grounds or because of a protest. The BHC has called for an investigation of the events in the camp. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) is sharing these two opinions. All closed centers and open centers are still overcrowded. As long as the conditions in the country are as bad as in Harmanli and elsewhere, Bulgaria will remain a Transit Country for migrants.

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The provoked riot in Harmanli’s refugee camp

Today, after more than two days of quarantine, at noon a massive riot broke out in Harmanli’s refugee camp, which is located not far way from the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The revolting migrants protested against the closing of the camp and for freedom of movement. Hundreds did not understand why more than 3000 people have to stay inside the camp and are not allowed to go out, while not everybody is ill from deceases. The closing of the camp was already a longer plan of the authorities and an answer on the permanent ongoing protest of right wing parties, neo-nazis and their supporters.

Some small barricades were built up by the protesters, some of them were burning. After a while, a water cannon which had entered the camp, was attacked by several people with stones. Riot police answered to them with batons and some of them were even throwing stones back to the revolting migrants. After a longer while the situation calmed down, as some migrants managed to pacify the crowd. The people continued with their protest peacefully. 

After failed negotiations, the riot continued again in the night. It was stated, by Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry chief secretary Georgi Kostov, that more than 200 people from the camp are in custodyPolice had entered some buildings and started to use physical violence. Even people who were not part of the riot were attacked. It was reported that the police used rubber bullets and water cannons. At the moment it is still not clear how many people are injured, regarding the lack of communication inside the camp. Already many people claimed that the police had entered their rooms and beaten them, although they did not participate in the riot. Several photos are already available, which are documenting their injuries.

Update: More and more photos appeared, showing injured migrants. Other sources reported on 400 people, who were taken already in custody by the police and 60 army forces, which will be deployed inside the camp.

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