Bulgaria’s Cabinet has dismissed the chairperson of the State Agency for Refugees, Nikolai Chirpanliev, and has appointed his erstwhile deputy Vassil Vurbanov on an interim basis, the government’s media service said in a statement on December 29.
The statement gave no reason for the sacking of Chirpanliev, but it came as no surprise, given that he was appointed in October 2013 under the now-departed Plamen Oresharski administration. Since taking office last month, the government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has already replaced a number of state agency heads.
Chirpanliev, who was appointed at the peak of sudden inflow of migrants last year, mainly those fleeing from the Syrian civil war, has also made headlines during his tenure with some less-than-charitable comments about refugees.
Earlier this year, he also came out with harsh criticism of the Human Rights Watch, which claimed in a report that Bulgaria has been forcing refugees out the country and unlawfully blocking their entry. He described the NGO as “liars and cheats” who “mislead public opinion in an impudent, cynical and deceitful way.”
Vurbanov is a graduate of two of Bulgaria’s top military colleges, the Georgi Benkovski air force school and the Rakovski military academy, who has served in the air force and the general staff of the Bulgarian army, reaching the rank of major-general. He is also the former military attache of the Bulgarian embassy in the US.
(The big-ticket border fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, built under the Oresharski administration, during Chirpanliev’s tenure as head of the refugees agency.)