Police step up patrols in Bulgaria’s capital after incidents involving Bulgarians and foreigners

Police are investigating an incident in Vitosha Boulevard on the night of March 8 in which Bulgarians were involved in a fight with foreign youths, the Sofia directorate of the Interior Ministry said in a statement on March 9.

This was the latest incident in recent days involving tensions between Bulgarians and young foreigners not of European descent.

The ministry said that police had responded to the incident on Friday night after receiving a report of a fight.

The foreigners told police that they had been attacked by a group of men. A mobile phone was taken from one of them.

Two, aged 19, were taken to hospital for a check-up and released.

Pre-trial proceedings had been initiated and police were seeking to identify the perpetrators, the Interior Ministry said.

According to Bulgarian National Radio, the incident involved several young men attacking a group of British students of Pakistani descent.

On March 6, also in Vitosha Boulevard, there was a clash between foreigners and Bulgarians following a verbal exchange. A video of the clash was uploaded to social networks and broadcast by Bulgarian National Television. Reports said that the foreigners were of Arab origin.

Sofia city councillor Georgi Georgiev called, in a Facebook post, for an emergency meeting of the city council on security in the city.

Georgiev, also citing a clash this week at the Ovcha Kupel refugee centre in the city, said: “These are incidents that have the potential to cause unpredictable retaliatory reactions”.

He called for stepped-up municipal police patrols in risk areas and in the city centre.

Georgiev, a councillor for GERB-UDF, called on Sofia mayor Vassil Terziev to take “urgent and appropriate measures” to “prevent new incidents and the possibility of extreme pseudo-nationalist groups deciding to dispense justice on the streets of Sofia. Such a situation should not be allowed”.

A statement by the Interior Ministry in the latter half of Saturday afternoon said that Sofia police and the Gendarmerie would ensure the safety of the residents and guests of Sofia.

As of this afternoon, an increased police presence has been organised by Sofia police who, together with their colleagues from the Gendarmerie, would patrol the areas of the central part of the city, the statement said.

It said that mobile police teams would control law and order on the territory of the Ovcha Kupel quarter in the area around the refugee accommodation centre.

Earlier this week, residents of the Rhodope mountain village of Hrabrino “arrested” – illegally, given that the concept of a citizen’s arrest does not exist in Bulgarian law – a group of foreigners they saw emerging from the forest and walking in the village.

Reports at the time said that the villagers were suspicious because the men did not speak Bulgarian and were bearded.

Police arrived and established that the men were foreign medical students from the Medical University of Plovdiv who had been hiking in the woods.

The men were released. There were no reports of criminal charges being lodged against the villagers for unlawful detention.

(Photo: Bart Groenhuizen/ sxc.hu)

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