Bulgaria begins moving Ukrainian refugees to state facilities

The accommodation of Ukrainian refugees in state recreation centres along Bulgaria’s Black Sea has begun, according to reports on November 4.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government announced on October 31 that it was changing from state support for accommodation of Ukrainian refugees in hotels to placing them in state and municipal bases. The state support for the hotel scheme ends on November 15.

The dedicated government portal said on November 4 that of the 861 694 Ukrainians who had entered Bulgaria since the February 2022 Russian invasion of their country, 54 359 remained in Bulgaria.

The portal said that 13 947 were accommodated. Bulgaria has granted temporary protection status to 144 587.

More than 1000 Ukrainians held a protest in the centre of Primorsko on the Black Sea coast on November 4, saying that they were petitioning the government and the European Commission for the caretaker cabinet to reconsider its decision and continue the humanitarian accommodation programme under the same conditions set up by the previous government.

Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) reported that at the protest, they held placards with the words “Don’t move us” and the names of the hotels where they are staying.

“The state bases are not designed for the accommodation of mothers with children,” BNR reported one of the protesters as saying.

“There is no hot water, the food is bad, there is mould in the bathtubs.  I have been to the BDZ station in Primorsko. The doors there are rotten at the base. In some rooms there are no air conditioners, it has no heating system.”

Separately, BNR reported that 35 Ukrainians refugees who had arrived in Bulgaria a few days ago were accommodated in a temporary residence centre in Elhovo.

Yambol district governor Georgi Chalakov told BNR that the refugees would remain at the camp in Elhovo until permanent accommodation was found for them.

Human rights NGO the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said that for five months, it had been urging state institutions responsible for managing the refugee crisis not to use the centre in Elhovo to accommodate Ukrainians fleeing the war.

“This practice is contrary not only to the law, but also to basic humanity,” the NGO said.

The centre in Elhovo consists of metal vans, some of which were not yet connected to sewage, running water and electricity in the summer.

“It is unclear whether these issues have been fixed to date,” the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said.

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