Bulgaria’s refugee agency: More than 500 hotels applied for new programme for Ukrainians

Just more than 500 hotels in Bulgaria have applied to take part in the new programme for Ukrainian refugees, by which the hotels will be paid 15 leva per person per day, State Agency for Refugees head Mariana Tosheva told a May 28 news conference in Varna, Nova Televizia reported.

Close to 300 of the hotels were already accommodating Ukrainians, Tosheva said.

She said that all the Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria had been registered via a survey.

The survey had been completed by 40 000 people, mainly women. Of those who responded to the survey, three per cent said that they were pregnant, seven per cent were people with disabilities and 10 per cent had chronic diseases.

These would be a priority in the agency’s work, Tosheva said.

She said that various inquiries and requests had been made to the call centre for the relocation of refugees from Ukraine.

Tosheva said that most were justified, but some were “quite frivolous” such as “we would like to remain at the seafront”, “we want to have meat at least twice a week” and “mandatory hair dryer in the room”.

She said that the close to 300 000 refugees from Ukraine who had entered Bulgaria were fleeing war, not poverty.

Some were discontented about having to leave the accommodation they were in now, Tosheva said.

To emphasise the scale of the number of Ukrainians who had entered Bulgaria since Russia began its current invasion of Ukraine, Tosheva pointed to the fact that Varna has 260 000 residents.

Tosheva said that there were some government departments that were not ready with preparing their facilities to accommodate the Ukrainians, and in effect were not carrying out the government’s orders.

She declined to name the departments, but said that if they did not remedy the situation within 24 hours, they would face sanctions.

Three thousand Ukrainians had got jobs in Varna, with employment contracts, Tosheva said.

She emphasised that the most important thing was that people had proper shelter and were not, as in parts of Western Europe, housed in gyms and tents. However, she could not rule out that in future, the latter scenario could happen in Bulgaria.

The relocation of the Ukrainians by bus and rail is scheduled to start on May 29 and continue over three days. The news conference was told that there is readiness to organise emergency train compositions and to attach additional carriages to regular services in order to separate the Ukrainian refugees from the regular passengers.

Buses transporting Ukrainians began leaving Sunny Beach on the Black Sea coast on May 28, and from May 29 to 31 inclusive, the parking area at Varna railway station will be closed to cars because of the gathering of groups.

Tosheva said that close to 7000 Ukrainians refugees in Varna and the district must be relocated by June 1.

The first 80 will leave for Panichishte, near Dupnitsa, on May 29 on a Varna-Sofia train, she said.

Deputy Minister of Transport Vladimir Vurbanov described the mass relocation as a “real challenge”. He said that he believed that state railways BDZ would cope.

Later, a further 120 refugees will be relocated to Panichiste, the briefing was told.

No great tension is expected, Tosheva said.

She said that the relocation operation by rail was designed not to interfere with ordinary traffic.

“You’ve heard how many trains there are – it’s not morning traffic that’s for work,” Tosheva said.

“Everything is thought out. Indeed, it takes a lot of attention to detail. It’s a whole, huge team and institutions, especially from BDZ, colleagues from the Transport Ministry and the Ministry of Interior, who are considering each part of the route how to do the logistics in the most gentle way for everyone, both for those staying in other hotels and especially for the people who are leaving the hotels, the Ukrainian citizens,” she said.

Medical care and food are provided for in all facilities for a period of three months, Tosheva said.

She said that the refugees will be given the opportunity to find a job in the nearby settlements.

As of May 28, the most recent update on the government portal on Ukrainians who had sought shelter in Bulgaria showed that of the 291 106 Ukrainians who had entered Bulgaria, 92 682 remained in the country.

This is 8706 fewer than the figure in the May 20 report, as Ukrainians leave Bulgaria with the approach of the end of the initial 40 leva per person per day support scheme for hotels accommodating Ukrainians. The figure for Ukrainians who remained in Bulgaria had peaked around mid-May, when it exceeded 104 000.

So far, 110 616 Ukrainians have been granted temporary protection status in Bulgaria. For more than a week, the number of those who have temporary protection has exceeded the number of those who have remained in Bulgaria.

(Photo: Just4You/freeimages.com)

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