Refugee crisis: One asylum-seeker freezes to death in Bulgaria, 3000 are confined

Written by on November 23, 2016 in Bulgaria - 3 Comments

An 18-year old refugee from Afghanistan was found dead in an abandoned industrial complex in north-western Bulgaria. According to the authorities, an autopsy revealed that the man froze to death. Also, he was undernourished. The location they found him at shows the victim most likely wanted to leave Bulgaria by crossing the border illegally and go to Western Europe.

Since the beginning of 2016, a total of 13,000 refugees have been registered in Bulgaria. The same amount of Syrian and Afghan asylum seekers had entered Serbia and Croatia every day, during the peak of the crisis, a year ago. According to the Bulgarian authorities, the number of refugees coming into the country is decreasing.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp in the town of Harmanli, located close to the Greek and Turkish borders, with 3,000 refugees, was just locked, meaning the asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the camp anymore. This happened after Bulgarian ultra-nationalists and their followers had demanded exactly this step, in protests, which took place in Harmanli, Varna and Sofia.

The Bulgarian authorities said the reason for locking down the premises were sicknesses diagnosed on 128 “migrants”. Those included skin illnesses, pox and viruses. The Medical Academy in Sofia confirmed there were no “mass illnesses”. To observers, these statements and the chronology of events looked like Bulgaria gave in to a few xenophobic protesters, citing sicknesses as an excuse. Another indication for the latter: The authorities did not say anything about protecting the health of 2,872 healthy “migrants”, who are being held in the same refugee camp.

Since the crisis began, there have hardly been any positive news about the integration or the treatment of refugees in Bulgaria, except for small groups of volunteers helping them. A few days ago, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee demanded an investigation into the the treatment of refugees, who, according to the NGO, are being robbed, kicked, beaten and intimidated by Bulgarian police officers. Other NGOs and the United Nations have blasted Bulgaria for the treatment of refugees throughout the crisis. While the so-called Balkan Route was still open to refugees, most of them tried to avoid Bulgaria, since information about the treatment had spread.

There are two aspects which might worsen the situation even further:

  • By stepping down, along with his government, for reasons hard to comprehend to many, former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has created a new political crisis in this country, which might give xenophobic parties more power.
  • The European Union is sick of the anti-democratic steps the Turkish government is taking. More and more European Parliament members are calling for a suspension of the accession talks with Ankara. This might make Turkey cancel the so-called E.U.-Turkey Deal. The latter would most likely lead to an increased movement of refugees towards Western Europe.


By Imanuel Marcus




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3 Comments on "Refugee crisis: One asylum-seeker freezes to death in Bulgaria, 3000 are confined"

  1. John Mitchell November 23, 2016 at 7:43 AM · Reply

    Any death is sad. Was this man really a refugee? Refugees, should be treated with kindness, consideration and compassion. Migrants with consideration. Illegal Immigrants, as the title states, as illegal, within the law.

    Media, politicians and others continue to misname these people, it is an insult to those who remain within the law.

    • Admin November 23, 2016 at 8:16 AM · Reply

      Yes, he was. I fully agree. Thanks, John!

  2. Mitchell Stern November 23, 2016 at 7:27 PM · Reply

    Hi John, I appreciate your comment that people should be treated fairly. However, the legal situation is really absurd, and it is near impossible for someone from a country like Afghanistan or Syria to enter Europe or Bulgaria legally, even if they intend to register as an asylum seeker. The legal path is to go to a border crossing and declare intention to seek asylum, but people from such countries without visas would be turned away. So, I believe “illegal immigrants” enter a country that way because they feel there is no other option. For most people, there simply is no completely legal route. In addition, the Dublin regulation encourages those entering Europe to try to pass undetected until they reach their target country – understandably, few aim to stay in places like Bulgaria or Greece.

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