Bulgaria: Capacity of refugee centers located at the Turkish-Bulgarian border to be fully stretched

Currently the capacities of the two Bulgarian refugee centers next to the Bulgarian-Turkish border Pastrogor and Lyubimets are overcrowded. The closed refugee center of Lyubimets which is operated by the Ministry of Interior is planned to be exceeded by 1,200 new places, consisting of containers that will be built up in the yard of the prison. Bulgaria is still considered a transit country for people on the move, fleeing form their country of origin. Pastrogor, which is operated by the State Agency of Refugees, has a capacity of 300 people, where currently live more than 400. It functions as an open center, but has the possibility to be transformed into a closed one. Several media outlets reported also about tensions among the working staff, because of the current conditions in the center.

This year there had been constantly traffic accidents where refugees had been involved. In February, Bulgarian police found 61 Afghan refugees in a truck, which had an accident. Already in April, two Afghan refugees died in an accident involving a Bulgarian army vehicle. Two weeks ago, a bus carrying 30 people with Afghan citizenship crashed into a tree in the western Bulgarian town of Godech near the Serbian border and caught fire. The driver died in the accident. Then, last week, a bus carrying 47 Syrian refugees was pursued by police for 25 kilometers in the Burgas region, causing a traffic accident. According to media reports, the 15-year-old Syrian driver of the bus did not stop when a police car got in his way and then collided with it. The accident, in which two police officers died, led to major political discussions.

Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev spoke publicly of a „declaration of war by the trafficking gangs“ and did assume that Bulgarian border officials could be involved in the illegal transit of refugees. Also he said, that the border fence could be easily overclimbed with a ladder, which was also mentiones by Chief Commissioner Stanimir Stanev. He announced that he would have all refugee accommodation checked in the next few days, which was carried out e.g. in Sofia and told the Bulgarian National Radio that almost 1,000 migrants are currently being stopped every day. From the 27th of August 2022, the army is increasing its protection at the state border of Bulgaria. This will lead probably to a new escalation of violence in the border area. Already in May 2022 the organization Human Rights Watch had published a report about the ongoing violence and push backs at the Bulgarian border. In October 2022 the organization Info Park, which is located in Serbia, published a post to address violent cases and push-backs within the Bulgarian border area.

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