Recently, talks about accommodating refugees in a 200 square meters big old military barracks in Kresna (Blagoevgrad Province) triggered a large, and in some cases xenophobic, protest on the 21st of March, held by Bulgarian citizens in Kresna. About a thousand people gathered, when they heard that there is a possibility that asylum seekers could be accommodated soon in their town. Some of the protesters also threatened that next time they are going to block highway E-79, which is close to the town of Kresna, or the Greek border itself. In a report, done by bTV, a citizen stated:
I am afraid that they are coming as conquerors. They come to take our territories. […] We are Christians before everything else. I cannot imagine my granddaughter to be wearing a burka.
The Idea of opening a refugee camp in Kresna, which could be used in the case of a higher migration influx from Greece and Macedonia, was discussed between the Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova and the mayor of the town, Nikolay Georgiev. Later the people were assured by the authorities, that for now the unused building will not become a refugee center but it became clear that the Ministry of Interior (MoI) is generally looking for such buildings to create new centers and therefore discussed several options.
The fact that the MoI is searching for new spaces, suggests that the new camps will be probably of a closed type, as the detention centers of Lyubimets, Busmantsi and Elhovo, which are operated from the Migration Directorate of the MoI. In addition, amendments were already approved last year to restrict the movement of asylum seekers and give the SAR the allowance to run facilities of closed type. Such a practice is in generally not new, if one recalls Harmanli camp, which was ad-hoc functioning as a closed camp for a few month in 2013/2014, before it was opened in March 2014 – after several protests and hunger strikes took place.
Bachvarova stated one day later, that only 955 foreigners are staying officially in the open centers of the SAR. All in all 4175 places are existing in the 6 open centers Ovcha Kupel (860), Voenna Rampa (800), Vrazhdebna (370), Pastrogor (320) and Banya (70). The new head of the SAR, Petya Parvanova, stated recently that at the moment every 5th bed is free in Bulgaria’s open camps.