Refugee Crisis: Bulgaria Not Affected that much, but Complaining Anyway

Written by on October 11, 2016 in Bulgaria - No comments

Even though it continues to be shaken by corruption scandals, the Bulgarian Border Police seems to be functional. At the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing in southern Bulgaria, officers encountered 65 refugees on a freight train carrying iron ore, who were trying to cross the border illegally and said they were Syrians. According to the authorities, all of them were detained. In a statement by the Ministry of the Interior in Sofia, it said the “migrants” had cut a hole into a cloth cover, which is how they had managed to get on board the train.

The Bulgarian government, at least the non-nationalist part of it, is trying to cooperate with the European Union, while constantly asking for support in its efforts to secure its borders, especially the southern one. At this stage, 190 officers belonging to “Frontex 2.0”, the new European border agency, are on site in Bulgaria, while Austria just turned down a request for direct support with personnel or equipment, since the country’s laws would have to be changed in order to make that possible.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s position could be seen as moderate, since he keeps on talking about resolving the crisis together, in the European context. He is constantly warning the rest of the E.U. about the consequences of Turkey opening its borders, in case the “E.U. Turkey Deal” blows, but has not engaged in the kind of rhetoric, his ultra-nationalist coalition partners and other organizations of this kind have engaged in. Borissov is just trying to make sure Bulgaria does not become an alternative to the so-called Balkan Route via Macedonia and Serbia, which is effectively closed.

To a majority of Bulgarians, the number of “migrants” in their country is already far too high, in spite of the fact that Bulgaria is actually “not effected that much”, as the Austrian publication “Tiroler Tageszeitung” accurately points out. Up to 15,000 refugees are here, most of whom do not intend to stay in Bulgaria anyway. That number is harmless indeed, especially when compared to the numbers of refugees in France and Germany, or in other Balkan countries a year ago, when refugees would enter Macedonia, Serbia or Croatia in these kinds of numbers every 48 hours.

The efforts launched by Borissov do not seem to be satisfactory to the Bulgarians. The number of anti-refugee protests and the number of participants has risen. In Harmanli, where 3,500 refugees are being accommodated in one of the country’s largest refugee camps, several dozen inhabitants, who want to get rid of them, demonstrated in front of that camp. During a protest march in Sofia, speakers demanded a resignation of the E.U. friendly Borissov government. Nationalist organizations have announced more protest marches this week.

A poll conducted by the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Burlgaria shows that half the population does see “a threat to the security of the country” in the refugees present. This widespread opinion was partially fabricated by nationalist forces in this country, who at the same time are trying to use it in the upcoming presidential elections.

There are very few voices in Bulgaria who would call for a calmer approach to the situation, as well as more empathy and solidarity with the refugees.

By Imanuel Marcus

Photo (symbolic) by imanuel Marcus. (Refugees at the Croatian-Hungarian border in 2015.)

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