Bulgarian security agency chief: Refugees no security threat but a ‘problem’

The head of Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security, Vladimir Pisanchev, has denied that the country faces a national security threat but says that the influx of refugees from Syria is a problem because Bulgaria has not previously faced such a wave of immigrants.

Pisanchev was speaking on October 10 2013 against a background of the number of refugees from Syria and other countries reaching 7000 in Bulgaria, according to the country’s Interior Ministry, which also predicted that if current trends continue, there would be 13 000 refugees in Bulgaria by the end of 2013 and 20 000 refugees from Syria by spring 2014.

Sofia city council held an emergency meeting on October 10 on the issue of refugees in the city, while a day earlier, Bulgaria’s Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a motion by ultra-nationalists Ataka calling for the country to close its borders to migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, particularly including Syria.

President Rossen Plevneliev said on October 10 that he saw “no dramatic situation” regarding the refugees in Bulgaria.

“I am closely following the situation with refugees. I believe that the government has its action plan and that the institutions have dedicated themselves to solving this issue by competently and responsibly taking decisions and actions,” Plevneliev told reporters.

“At present I do not see a dramatic situation; furthermore, I see a worthy attitude of Bulgarian citizens in support of those who need help,” Plevneliev said.

Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, speaking after the special meeting of the city council, said that the city should be given special attention as far as refugees are concerned, because 66 per cent of the refugees in Bulgaria were in the capital city.

Fandukova called on Sofia District Police Directorate to have good co-ordination with the municipality of Sofia.

She said that when the government decides to open new refugee centres, a very clear analysis of the risk for the other citizens should be made and on the basis of this, measures should be worked out.

Fandukova voiced her concern about the security around the refugee centres in the capital and said that Deputy Interior Minister Vasil Marinov had assured her that the security would be stepped up.

I am concerned also about the way refugee candidates living outside refugee centres get registered. According to the Refugee Agency there are more than 2000, Fandukova, as quoted by local news agency Focus.

Marinov told reporters after the city council meeting that the Interior Ministry was spending a million leva (about 500 000 euro) a month on the Border Police deployment along the border with Turkey and monitoring of the refugee flow.

He said that the government’s departments had resorted to the last financial reserves to handle the refugee crisis.

“Bulgaria is on the edge as far as the costs of the refugees are concerned and the money is not enough for anything,” Marinov said.

He said that the ministry was focusing on equipping and repairing two new refugee centres close to the border with Turkey and that arriving refugees would be accommodated there to relieve the pressure on the capital.

“Before opening the two refugee centres in the capital there was a meeting between Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev and Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova,” Marinov said, referring to the complaint of the capital’s municipal councillors that they had not been informed about the opening of the two refugee centres in advance.

The Bulgarian Red Cross has stopped campaigning for clothes for Syrian refugees, media reports quoted the head of the BRC in Plovdiv, Tanya Georgieva, as saying.

She said that a large amount of clothing, shoes and blankets had been built up. In the office in Plovdiv alone, there was a ton.

The Bulgarian Red Cross fundraising campaign was continuing because people needed hygiene products and food products, Georgieva said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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