Bulgaria’s government has put the blame for the chaos at the Durankulak border checkpoint, which in recent days has seen a sharp increase in arriving Ukrainian refugees, on tour operators that it says are behaving unscrupulously.
Bulgarian media reports have described the burden of the situation at the border checkpoint as falling mainly on hard-pressed and exhausted volunteers and have said that the state has done little to help.
A Bulgarian government media statement on April 12 that the number of Ukrainians arriving at Durankulak in recent days had risen by 100 per cent.
“The situation has changed dramatically due to the increased flow of people who, after the strike against the railway station in Kramatorsk, prefer to leave Ukraine by bus rather than by train,” the government said.
Additional staff from both the Bulgarian Red Cross and the Interior Ministry have already been assigned to the Durankulak border checkpoint, as well as volunteers who are doing everything possible to register the people coming, the statement said.
It said that Durankulak already has 11 temporary protection points.
The gathering of people is mainly due to the activities of tour operators operating in Ukraine, the Bulgarian government said.
“In return for a commission, they deceive the people there and promise them that they will be accommodated in Bulgarian hotels.
“In most cases, hotels are not informed and do not actually have more vacancies to receive Ukrainian citizens. Eighty per cent of the buses at the border find themselves in this situation and this is actually the reason for the queues there,” the statement said.
Valeri Rachev, head of the operational HQ set up by the Bulgarian government to deal with the Ukrainian refugee situation, said that these buses deliberately bypassed the Bulgarian accommodation organisation.
When the people arrived, the staff had to urgently seek shelter for them.
“However, in order to accommodate them free of charge under the programne, they must have temporary protection,” Rahev said.
The authorities also ask anyone who has information about irregularities in the transportation and accommodation of Ukrainian citizens to report it to the crisis staff or on the national 24-hour telephone line 02 9 055 555.
The government statement said that Bulgaria ranks second in Europe in the percentage of people registered for temporary protection fleeing the war in Ukraine, based on the total number of people staying in the country.
In recent days there has been a significant increase in the number of people deciding to stay in Bulgaria, the statement said.
The government said that up to April 15, payments will be made towards hotel accommodation whether the Ukrainians have registered for temporary protection or not.
After that date, there would be no way to accommodate in the hotels people who had not sought registration for temporary protection or are not already registered for it, the statement said.
(Screenshot via bTV)
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