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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 custody. Police 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.