Bulgarian Red Cross volunteers started a programme involving interactive games, art classes and sport for refugee children on October 31 2013.
The first in a series of visits was scheduled to begin at the Voenna Rampa and Vrazhdebna temporary refugee centres in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia.
Given the constantly increasing number of asylum seekers in Bulgaria, most of whom are children and young people, the Bulgarian Red Cross recognises the need to provide psycho-social support, the organisation said in a statement on the eve of the first visit by the volunteers.
On October 31, the head of the State Agency for Refugees, Nikolai Chirpanliev was to meet with the national operational headquarters headed by Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev to discuss the refugee crisis in the country.
Media reports said that there were now about 10 000 refugees in Bulgaria, about 60 per cent of them in the capital city, while the capacity of accommodation facilities continued to be exceeded.
Going by recent Interior Ministry updates on detentions of illegal migrants, about 100 people are detained daily after illegal border crossings, significant numbers of them Syrian refugees.
An October 31 report by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television examined what progress was being made in school education for refugee children.
The report said that about 15 per cent of refugees in Bulgaria were children.
At a school in the Sofia residential area of Ovcha Kupel, where the refugee centre is housing 400 children, some already had passed a three-month elementary course in the Bulgarian language.
The headmistress of one school in the area, Lyudmila Vassileva, said that refugee children at the school, including Iraqis and Palestinians, had integrated well and had friends among the Bulgarian children. She was “pleasantly surprised by the respect with which they (the refugee children) treat their Bulgarian teachers,” according to the report.
Meanwhile, Deputy Interior Minister Vassil Marinov said in an interview with mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa that the European Commission would provide 96 million euro for border protection for the period to 2020.
The funds would be used for borders, technical assistance, a common visa policy and police co-operation, Marinov was quoted as saying.
He said that agreement had been reached on emergency funding up to the end of the year from European refugee funding.
However, the funds under the “asylum and migration” programme had been cut for the next programming period and Bulgaria would receive only 11.6 million euro.
Political criticism of the handling of the refugee situation in Bulgaria is continuing.
Local media quoted Dimitar Bechev of the civic quota of the centre-right extra-parliamentary Reformist Bloc as telling a news conference that it was unacceptable that a xenophobic party such as Ataka was shaping public opinion on the issue of Syrian refugees.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (current holder of the mandate to govern) was passive, as well as the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, while Ataka scaremongered about Islamisation of Bulgaria. This was because Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party held the key to the ruling coalition, Bechev said.
The xenophobic discourse about refugees specifically was a threat to the electorate of the MRF, which created ethnic tension and a danger to national security.
(Photo: Ben Melrose/V Photo Agency)