200 arrests, police injured, as thousands clash with police at Bulgaria’s Harmanli refugee camp

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov made a late-night visit to Bulgaria’s Harmanli refugee camp on November 24, when more than 200 arrests were reported as about 2000 residents clashed with police.

Tensions at the camp, in south-central Bulgaria about 250km from the country’s capital Sofia, began at noon as an estimated 2000 of those housed at the Harmanli camp turned out in protest against the ban against leaving the camp.

The quarantine was imposed ostensibly earlier this week because of a supposed fear of the spread of infectious diseases, though local media in Bulgaria have indicated that authorities said that the ban was really because of residents of Harmanli fearing infection from the refugees at the camp, though no risk of infection existed.

There were clashes earlier on November 24, with buildings and other property damaged by arson. Places damaged by fire included the new reception centre and the dining hall, as residents of the refugee camp set fire to mattresses and broken furniture, earlier reports said.

The head of Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees, Petya Purvanova, arrived to try to calm the situation in the late afternoon, but with the onset of evening, there were further clashes with security forces.

Borissov travelled to Harmanli in the evening.

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry chief secretary Georgi Kostov confirmed to local media that more than 200 people from the camp were in custody.

Each would face pre-trial proceedings, Kostov said. A large amount of state property had been destroyed.

Fourteen Bulgarian police were injured. Kostov said that one of the police injured had a head injury that was a matter of grave concern. The police officer had a head injury, the result of a thrown stone that had broken his protective helmet.

Although the situation had calmed by late afternoon, it escalated again after 8pm.

Special police from Sofia were deployed to reinforce the security presence in the town.

Harmanli resident Nikolai Georgiev told local media that the people at the centre were not people fleeing war to seek refuge and said that people in the town wanted those at the centre to be extradited to their own countries.

There had been attacks on young women and property in the town and people were afraid, Georgiev said.

Kostov said earlier that to restore order at the centre, police had used water cannon and rubber bullets.

He said that there was no danger to residents of the town of Harmanli. Security forces would remain in place, to restore order, Kostov said.





The Sofia Globe staff

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