Bulgaria’s European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, whose portfolio covers humanitarian aid and crisis response, said that she understood that the country needed more funds to cope with the crisis caused by a surge in Syrian refugees and believe that the EC would treat the issue responsibility.
Georgieva was speaking in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on October 4 after an inspection tour of refugee centres in the city and a meeting with Bulgarian Red Cross leadership.
The influx of refugees, in numbers soaring well above the year before, has put tremendous strain on Bulgaria’s facilities and exposed a lack of planning and capacity. Emergency response measures to provide additional accommodation have seen the new shelters fill up rapidly.
The media were not admitted to Georgieva’s meetings with refugees.
She said later that her message to the refugees had been, “you also have to be patient with us, we have not had this problem before, our people also have difficulties – Bulgaria is not a rich country”.
“Bulgarians are good people, but it’s something new for us. People are afraid of terrorist threat,” Georgieva said.
Local reporters who managed to speak to Syrian refugees said that some complained of continuing inadequate conditions and provision of resources, making it particularly difficult to care for children.
Georgieva said that Bulgaria had to be ready to receive refugees: “it is our duty”.
“We should try as quickly as possible to create the conditions for them so that to be able to make their own living. The more we work on those who have the capacity to work the easier for them and for Bulgaria,” she said..
“The care for refugees is a concern of the signatory countries to the Refugee Convention. Bulgaria has received 15 million euro from the European Commission, 2.6 million of which is assistance to tackle the refugee issue. This amount is not enough.
“Earlier this week we sent a team to Bulgaria, Malta, Greece, to make a recommendation and for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs to take a positive decision. Our country needs this assistance – to allocate more funds for Bulgaria,” Georgieva said.
She added that Bulgaria has large reserves in structural and cohesion funds, meaning in social and rural development funds, which she believed could be used to help Bulgarians in areas where refugees are accommodated.
Georgieva said that if there was a large influx of refugees, Bulgaria could help with prefabricated houses, heated tents – all of which countries hold in reserve.
“Hopefully that will not happen, but we are ready to take steps if it does,” she said.
The Interior Ministry said on October 4 that according to the National Operations Headquarters for managing and dealing with the crisis arising from the increased refugee flow, 78 illegal immigrants were detained on the Bulgarian-Turkish border in the past 24 hours during attempts to enter the country. Thirty were Syrian nationals, the ministry said.
(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)