Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees is introducing a declaration for Ukrainian citizens to sign if they refuse the accommodation offered by the state, saying that they are taking responsibility for finding shelter for themselves.
The head of the agency, Mariana Tosheva, told this to Bulgarian National Television on May 29 after hundreds of Ukrainians refused at the last minute to travel from hotels in Varna and Bourgas on state-provided transport to state facilities and hotels elsewhere.
May 31 sees the end of the 40 leva per person per day state funding for hotels accommodating Ukrainians who have fled Russia’s war on their country.
From then, those wanting accommodation arranged by the state will be housed in state facilities and in hotels that will receive 10 or 15 leva per person per day depending on whether or not food is provided.
The State Agency for Refugees said earlier, as The Sofia Globe reported on May 28, that more than 500 hotels had applied for inclusion in the latter scheme.
The declaration – in Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Russian – now being introduced is already being distributed to all hotels accommodating refugees up to May 31, Bulgarian National Television said.
On May 29, the first of three days on which the intention was to relocate several thousand Ukrainians by train and bus, only five people came to Varna Railway Station out of an expected 250 while only 57 arrived at Bourgas Railway Station out of an expected 300.
Bulgaria’s government had arranged special extra carriages for the trains to transport the Ukrainians, and special security, while the Bulgarian Red Cross and NGOs were on hand to provide water and snacks. The government has voted five million leva to provide free transport for the Ukrainians in the relocation operation.
It remains unclear what happened at the last minute to make Ukrainian citizens in Varna change their minds en masse overnight.
Tosheva told an earlier briefing in Bourgas on May 29 that up to Saturday, teams had visited hotels, with Ukrainians saying that they would be participating in the relocation and accepting the accommodation offered.
“What happened today – the Ukrainians, who had to get on the buses, were already in front of the hotel and suddenly, without any good reason, began to give up on the accommodation,” Tosheva said.
She said that she was surprised by the reluctance of refugees to comply with the state’s request and efforts to provide them with shelter.
“All facilities to which accommodation groups are directed comply with the European Commission’s Admission Directive and United Nations conditions,” Tosheva said.
“This is shelter , no matter what, with food, water and hygienic conditions,” she said.
She appealed to Ukrainians who do not want to be accommodated in state facilities to inform hoteliers and field teams in time.
“We are also keeping in touch with the hoteliers to know how many people to expect,” Tosheva said.
She said that as a last resort, if places for accommodating Ukrainian refugees in state facilities run out, they would be received at the refugee centre in Elhovo, which has capacity for 1750 people.
The most recent figures posted on the government dedicated information portal on Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria said that 90 365 remained in Bulgaria. It had been estimated that 20 000 to 25 000 would be relocated to state facilities and hotels participating in the accommodation support scheme, but Sunday’s events have put that estimate into question.
(Photo: Raphael Schaller/unsplash)
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