A Local District Prosecutor’s Office decided to indict 21 asylum seekers for “hooliganism with boldness and cynicism“ concerning the riot which happened in December 2016 in Harmanli’s refugee camp. The riot broke out after authorities closed Bulgaria’s biggest refugee camp, because of a quarantine issue. Before the closing of the camp neo-nazi and right wing protesters gathered on a regular basis in front of the camp to demonstrate against foreigners. The authorities obeyed the orders from the xenophobic and racist groups and parties and closed the camp for several days.
After the riot broke out on the 24th of November 2017, the camp was stormed in the following night by a special unit of the gendarmerie. According to several civil rights organizations, volunteers and refugees many people in the camp were attacked and heavily injured without being involved in the riot. Krassimir Kanev, the head of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) stated:
Lots of completely innocent refugees were chased in their rooms, attacked and severely beaten up by the police in the course of that operation. Nor is there any prosecution of those who closed the Harmanli center on the instigation of nationalists, turning it into a prison for several days, which provoked the riot. Instead, we are going to have several rioters prosecuted for destruction of property and hooliganism
The Center for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria (CLA) condemned “the absence of investigation of the police use of force against the asylumseekers“. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (BMB) shares the concerns which were raised by the BHC and the CLA. The aim of the prosecution cannot justify the possible unlawful acts of the police, the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) and the the Health Inspectorate, which should be investigated by an independent agency.