Within the next five to 10 days, Bulgaria will provide a further 1000 places for refugees, Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said on September 14, against a background of what he described as a crisis regarding the refugee wave as the Syrian crisis spurs vast numbers of people to flee that country.
Yovchev, speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), said that Bulgarian authorities would start acting in a methodical and systematic way because the refugee wave was not expected to stop soon.
Bulgaria’s facilities for refugees and asylum-seekers have been severely overstretched by the significant increase in arrivals in recent weeks. According to Yovchev, facilities currently were over capacity by 30 per cent.
There have been reports of protests by people in temporary shelters because of poor living conditions. Yovchev said that the further 1000 places to be provided would enable people to be accommodated in normal circumstances.
The same day, the Interior Ministry said that 67 people had been intercepted in the past 24 hour entering Bulgaria illegally. Most had no identity documents but 57 said that they were Syrians.
Yovchev told BNR that for the time being, Bulgaria’s border with Turkey – the leading entry point into the country for illegal migrants – would not be closed. He added that should this be deemed necessary, it would require the consent of Parliament.
Plamen Oresharski, Prime Minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, said that there was no direct terrorist threat to Bulgaria because of the wave of Syrian refugees entering the country. The situation in Syria meant a “high risk” not only to Bulgaria but to the whole region, he said.
Yovchev said that criteria were being developed to assess people arriving in Bulgaria and to screen out individuals who were potential risks.
In the coming week, members of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee would inspect the situation at the Bulgarian-Turkish and Greek-Turkish borders as well as the shelter for refugees at Pastrogor, socialist MEP Ivailo Kalfin said.
Kalfin, also speaking on September 14, said that the fact that Bulgaria had no further capacity to accommodate refugees meant two things. First, that the European Union should step up its efforts to keep the Syrian refugees close to the Syrian borders. Second, any refugees who have come to Europe should be viewed as a European problem, and not a national problem of the receiving country. This implies that the EU should provide funding and handle part of the refugee wave if it increases, Kalfin said, quoted by Bulgarian news agency BTA. He expressed hope that Bulgaria would get EU aid to address the refugee issue.
(Bulgarian – Turkish border area near Matochina. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)