Syrian refugees lodge complaint against Bulgarian ultra-nationalist Ataka mouthpiece

A group of Syrian refugees has lodged a complaint with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination against Alfa TV and the anchor of its “In the Eye of the Storm” show and Magdalena Tasheva MP of the Ataka party, Bulgarian news agency BTA said.

In a number of shows, Tasheva has presented the refugees from Syria as bogus refugees, Islamists, extremists and criminals and dehumanises them, according to the complaint.

In recent weeks, as the number of refugees in Bulgaria has swelled, mainly the result of Syrians fleeing the carnage under the Assad regime, Bulgaria has been struggling to cope with the influx – and while Bulgarian institutions and charitable institutions have been scrambling to assist, other voices in the Eastern European country have alleged that the influx of Syrian refugees is being exploited as a cover for terrorist extremists to infiltrate the country.

Within Bulgaria, the failure to cope adequately with the refugee crisis cost the head of the State Agency for Refugees. On October 2, the cabinet fired Nikola Kazakov, in office as head of the state agency since February 2010.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Tsvetlin Yovchev gave three reasons for the axing of Kazakov – dissatisfactory organisation of processing refugee status applications, arrangements at shelters for refugees and serious failures in communicating with EU institutions that could assist in dealing with the situation.

Yovchev said that from now, the State Agency for Refugees would be headed by Nikolai Chirpanliev.

Yovchev said that a further 1500 places for accommodation and temporary protection of refugees could be opened within a month.

He said that given the pace that Syrian refugees were arriving, accommodation would again soon be over capacity.

Yovchev said that about 5815 refugees had entered the territory of Bulgaria since the start of 2013 until September. A total of 2377 people have been detained at the border in September, of whom 1635 were Syrian nationals.

This was a sevenfold increase over the same period of 2012.

“Closing the Bulgarian border for the refugees is an extreme measure, which will cost much to the Bulgarian taxpayers,” Yovchev said, according to a report by local news agency Focus, saying that “the closure of the border” meant “covering the border” in a way that it did not allow the passing of illegal emigrants.

“This will cost about 11 million leva (about 5.5 million euro) a month,” Yovchev said.

He said that the Bulgarian government was considering asking for activation of European Commission’s Directive 55, which allows for additional financial means for the refugees and their transportation to other EU countries.

Yovchev said, ‘we should not overlook the risk from penetration of the country by people linked with terrorist organisations. There is no denying the health risks. We have undertaken a package of measures aimed at minimisation of risks for the country. We are working actively to find lodgings for a further 1500 people. There are medical teams in place and medical examinations are carried out at the border. There are vaccines in order to prevent outbreak of an epidemic,” he said.

He said that if the refugee influx continues at its current rate, the costs to Bulgaria could reach 30 million leva by the end of 2013.




The Sofia Globe staff

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