Refugees put demands as European Commissioner Malmström visits Bulgaria’s Harmanli shelter

Refugees housed at the shelter in Harmanli protested during a visit by European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, demanding that the granting of refugee status by Bulgaria be speeded up and that they be allowed to move to Western Europe.

Malmström, who visited the camp on the second of a two-day visit to Bulgaria to inspect conditions in which refugees are housed and examine how Bulgaria is handling refugee issues, was accompanied by Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev.

More than 1300 people are housed at the centre in Harmanli, in southern Bulgaria.

Refugees at the Harmanli centre blocked a lane of the international road to Turkey because of a rumour that their stay at the camp could last for years while they awaited the granting of official refugee status.

Harmanli refugee centre March 2014 photo EC Audiovisual Service

“What I heard from them is that they all want to go somewhere else. Unfortunately, according to EU legislation this is not possible, because Bulgaria was the first country to accept the request for status,” Malmström said.

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(Photos: EC Audiovisual Service)