The violent clashes between people housed at the Harmanli refugee reception centre and police were discussed at a meeting between Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov and the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s embassy in Sofia, Ahmad Sidiq Dlir, the Foreign Ministry said.
People from Afghanistan make up the largest group of refugees and migrants who have arrived in Bulgaria since the beginning of 2016, according to regular reports by the International Organization for Migration.
Reports have said that many of those involved in the November 24 clash at the Harmanli refugee camp were from Afghanistan.
Bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Afghanistan in the context of the challenges of the migrant crisis and international terrorism were the focus of talks between Mitov and Dlir, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
According to the statement, Mitov and Dlir noted the “excellent co-operation” between Bulgaria and Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, emphasising the important role of the Bulgarian military contingent in the country for the peace and security of the Afghan people and the assistance that the Bulgarian side has given the Afghan government through capacity building – training of diplomats, executives and police officers with a focus on fighting corruption.
In the discussion on Harmanli, Mitov emphasised that actions to address the crisis situation at the refugee centre in the town were carried out “in strict compliance with fundamental rights of persons seeking international protection in the country”.
Mitov said that police have exercised their powers to protect public order in accordance with the principle of proportionality, the sole purpose of reducing tension and prevent further expansion of the conflict.
The participants in the riots and hooliganism will be subject to proper investigation by the relevant institutions in Bulgaria, he said.
Mitov said that the situation should not be used for political purposes and the language of hatred and xenophobia should not be allowed to prevail in public discourse, as well as with a view to avoiding a new escalation and the fact that such sentiments will not contribute to finding constructive solutions.
He said that Bulgaria is making every effort within its means to ensure the necessary conditions in the centre for temporary accommodation in Harmanli and urged the Afghan diplomat to actively assist in the identification of persons subject to return to their homeland, to accelerate the issuance of travel documents for them and for the timely issuance of visas to representatives of the Ministry of Interior participating in the Frontex mission to return Afghan citizens illegally resident in the country.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Dlir showed understanding regarding the sensitivity of the problem and undertook to co-operate on the issues raised by Bulgaria.
At the same time, he spoke of the serious security situation in Afghanistan.He expressed hope that the Harmanli incident will not have a negative impact on the friendly relations between the two countries, the Foreign Ministry said.
(Photos: Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)