Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees says that it has taken steps to speed up the procedure for granting refugee status, against a background of figures continuing to show that capacity in the country’s shelters is still being exceeded.
According to an Interior Ministry statement on October 16, the capacity of State Agency for Refugees and Interior Ministry facilities for temporarily housing refugees was for 3740 people and this figure was exceeded by 207 places.
The same day, Deputy Interior Minister Vassil Marinov said in a television interview that there were 6503 refugees in Bulgaria.
The numbers given by officials about the number of refugees in Bulgaria has tended to vary. On October 10, the Interior Ministry gave the figure as close to 7000.
Official statements of numbers are, however, likely to be affected by the continuing daily influx of refugees, who tend mainly to be from Syria.
Marinov said that the previous night, 89 people had crossed the Turkish-Bulgarian border illegally, of whom 40 were Syrians.
He said that Bulgaria was maintaining its border protection well and, he said, 99 per cent of those crossing it illegally were detained. Steps were being taken to improve security in an area where detection of illegal migrants was more difficult.
According to Marinov, an estimate based on a figure of 2000 people crossing the border illegally every month would mean that by the end of 2013, there would be about 11 200 refugees in Bulgaria. That estimate could change because the figure for October 2013 alone was expected to be 3000.
On October 10, the Interior Ministry said that its estimates were that there would be 13 000 refugees in Bulgaria by the end of 2013 and 20 000 refugees from Syria by spring 2014.
Meanwhile, the message of the current Syrian regime has been heard directly in Bulgaria because state news agency BTA and the Association of Bulgarian Media Abroad included among its guests at the Ninth World Meeting of Bulgarian Media the head of the Syrian Arab News Agency, Ahmad Dawa.
A report by BTA from the venue of the meeting in Plovdiv on October 15 quoted Dawa as saying that Syria was calling on its refugees to return home, and the Syrian state “guarantees the security of refugees in the territories emptied of terrorists”.
(Photo: UNHCR/D Kashavelov)