The Bulgarian government may allow municipalities to apply for financial aid to cope with the influx of refugees, reports on October 23 2013 said, against a background of Sofia complaining about the impact of refugees and protests in other cities and towns against the opening of refugee centres.
Places of accommodation for refugees run by the State Agency for Refugees and the Interior Ministry are national government facilities but have an impact on local communities, mayors have made clear to the government.
Recent days have seen protests in towns such as Kazanluk against the conversion of existing state facilities to provide temporary accommodation to refugees.
Domestically, the handling of the refugee situation in Bulgaria, which has reached record levels with numbers continuing to climb, has been seized on by some politicians and media which have stoked up fears about supposed infiltration by terrorists or, at least, a rise in local crime.
Refugees in centres in Sofia have been living in miserable conditions, although steps now have been taken to correct this, while a great deal of the running in assisting refugees by providing essential items has been made by private organisations such as the Bulgarian Red Cross while assistance also has come from religious and business organisations.
According to a report in daily Sega, the idea of enabling municipalities to apply for assistance could stop the tension between central and municipal government while also ensuring transparency in how funds are used.
On October 22, Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova said in an interview with local media that work related to refugee accommodation centres is a new task which the state was entrusting to some municipalities.
Fandukova said that therefore, there should be funding not only for the police, but also for the additional cleaning, the installation of video surveillance and lighting, and for meeting social needs.
She said that part of the resources which the government allocates for managing the refugee flow should be directed to municipalities and to be proportionate to the number of people accommodated in the respective cities and towns.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has confirmed that it has begun a comprehensive investigation into how money was spent by the State Agency for Refugees in recent years.
Under investigation is the use of money from the EU and from state funds. The agency has used up close to 30 million leva (about 15 million euro) in the past five years to no avail.
The refugee crisis in Bulgaria was due to be discussed on October 23 at a joint meeting of Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs and on internal security and public order, to be attended by the ministers of the interior and of foreign affairs.
(All photos: Ben Melrose, V Photo Agency)