Almost half of Bulgaria’s population agree that refugees could integrate successfully in Bulgarian society, according to a poll commissioned by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees representation in the country, the findings of which were released on March 26 2018.
Just more than 55 per cent of the respondents would help refugees learn the local language (30.6 per cent) or employ them (24.6 per cent) if refugees were to settle in their town, according to the poll.
The survey was conducted for UNHCR Bulgaria in December 2017. The methodology involved a quantitative survey among more than 1000 respondents aged between 18 and 61 with different socio-demographic characteristics and focus group discussions in Sofia, Plovdiv, Haskovo and Vidin.
“Many Bulgarians harbour fears with respect to refugees and the impact their integration will have on society. Much of the fear is based on misconceptions and misinformation,” Mathijs Le Rutte, UNHCR representative in Bulgaria, said.
“At the same time I am very encouraged by the finding that a relatively large part of the population supports integration and more importantly is willing to personally help refugees integrate in the Bulgarian society,” Le Rutte said.
The poll found that 56 per cent of Bulgarians believe that refugees cannot integrate in society due to cultural differences. There is also a common belief that the refugees are not willing to establish in Bulgaria and are merely interested in going on to Western EU member states.
The survey found that the vast majority of Bulgarians (93 per cent) have never met a refugee or an asylum seeker over the past few years.
Respondents said that their main source of information on asylum-seekers and refugees were TV (94 per cent), internet (20 per cent), friends (19 per cent), newspapers (11 per cent), social media (seven per cent), and radio (seven per cent).
In 2013, at the beginning of the large refugee movement the strongest fears Bulgarians had were about security (72 per cent), the danger of bringing diseases to the country (68 per cent), and job losses (51 per cent). In 2017, the predominant fears are concerns about security (60 per cent), and the difference in culture and religion (48 per cent), the UNHCR said.
Fifty per cent of the respondents said that only refugees from countries at war like Syria should be accepted in Bulgaria and only 15 per cent consider that people who faced persecution and human rights abuses in their home country should be granted international protection, the survey found.
(Photo: Ben Melrose/V Photo Agency)