ISI study: Refugees in Bulgaria face language of hatred and discrimination

Written by on May 11, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on ISI study: Refugees in Bulgaria face language of hatred and discrimination

When refugees come to Bulgaria, they face a “language of hatred and discrimination”. This is the conclusion of a study by the Institute for Social Integration in Sofia (ISI), which was just completed. The institute monitored and analysed media reports and transcripts of speeches held in the 43rd National Assembly, which was dissolved after the government stepped down in November of last year. Also, people were surveyed.

Since the refugee crisis escalated in 2014, ISI has been examining the Bulgarian people’s reactions. The outcome: Bulgarians live in a complex combination of fear. In connection with refugees, they specifically fear terrorism, crime, unknown diseases, economic competition and the unknown.

A total of 45 percent of Bulgarians believe radical Islamists and terrorists were among the refugees.

Also, in connection with the refugee crisis, Bulgarians tend to fear an increase in government spending at the expense of social spending which benefit Bulgarians. ISI came to the conclusion that this fear is unfounded, since the social spending for Bulgarian citizens never decreased.

An increase in crime is another big fear among Bulgarians, as the ISI study shows. The institute says that refugees commit far less crimes than Bulgarian citizens.

According to ISI, the election campaigns in 2016 (presidential election) and this year (parliamentary election) led to a lot of hate speech, while Bulgarian media covered news related to refugees twice as much as usual, during those periods.

Another outcome of the study, a less surprising one: Bulgarian Politicians “with nationalist attitudes” often use the word migrant in context with the words terrorism or ISIS.

The result of the ISI study is not really surprising, since NGOs, but also the United Nations have criticized the last Bulgarian government (the one which stepped down in November) for paving the way for an atmosphere of hate against refugees. On the other hand, the data ISI came up are a partial explanation – but definitely not a justification – for the origin of the hate speech and intolerance registered in Bulgaria.

Photo: Refugees in Croatia, 2015. Photo by Imanuel Marcus

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus, the founder of foreignersandfriends.com, is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe.