Bordermonitoring Bulgaria moved to a new Webspace. There you can download our new report Trapped in Europe’s Quagmire: The situation of asylum seekers and refugees in Bulgaria. For further informations, please check our new page: bulgaria.bordermonitoring.eu
Trapped in Europe’s Quagmire: The situation of asylum seekers and refugees in Bulgaria is Bordermonitoring’s report on Bulgaria. The making of the report was undertaken by four independent researchers and follows structural conditions in the country which place asylum-seekers and refugees in an extremely vulnerable position as well as their current precarious situation.
The themes covered in the report are as follows:
- Push-backs and violence at the Bulgarian border
- From overcrowded camps to the production of homelessness
- Integration in flux: a path to exclusion in a state of chaos
- Xenophobia and racists assaults: institutions, far-right, street violence
- Asylum procedures: the legal experts’ opinion
- Europe’s most unwanted: restrictions on free movement
It is available as of now: PDF download.
Bordermonitoring advises against the conduct of Dublin returns to Bulgaria until the country can ensure dignified treatment of all asylum-seekers and refuges on its territory. Bordermonitoring continues to closely follow the developments in Bulgaria.
The reports on stories collected in Bulgaria, while the journalist Andrea Rehmsmeier, visited the country in the months of April and May 2014. The broadcast covers the hardships that status-holders endure after the granting of their status. As a 19 year old Palestinian reports:
If you got this passport, than you have to leave the camp within a transition period of one month. Because the Bulgarian state is taking the view: From us you got what you wanted. Now go to work, or sleep in the street, this is not our problem anymore. From now on you are responsible for yourself!
Andrea Rehmsmeier shows the dangerous situation in Bulgaria that arises from the spread of extreme far-right tendencies. As one of her interviewees, a volunteer who helps asylum-seekers and refugees, shares:
On Facebook people write things that I don’t really want to say publicly. They also threaten me that they will send the “hooligans” after me.
Tomorrow, on July the 7th, Bordermonitoring is releasing a report of its findings in Bulgaria. Trapped in EUs Quagmire: The situation of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Bulgaria covers topics ranging from push-backs and racism in Bulgaria to the newest developments in regards to integration and the spread of homelessness.
On April 21st, 2014 Border Monitoring Bulgaria (BMB) recorded yet another case of a push-back of a single Syrian mother with her four children (10, 17, 22, 24 years old) accompanied by severe police violence. Relatives reported that in their attempt to receive protection in Bulgaria, the family was forcefully returned to Turkey. After a day spent in Bulgaria, the family now finds itself in Turkey without their request for asylum having been respected, heard, or evaluated. BMB spoke to the victims who are now in a Turkish hospital treating their broken limbs and ribs.
Since the beginning of April 2014, several protests took place in Sofia, agains the restriction of freedom of movement for refugees with a humanitarian status in Bulgaria. Sometimes the protest went in the front of the representation of the European Council and the European parliament at Georgi Rakovski Street (See videos: 1, 2).
In the middle of April 2014, hundreds of refugees with humanitarian and refugee status gathered at the Airport in Sofia to fly with Austrian Airlines to Vienna. It was the last possibility for them to leave Bulgaria and cross the border. Some days later Austria reacted and closed the last gateway to European Schengen countries. Only hours after that decision, several refugees that bought a ticket and arrived the Airport in Wien/Schwechen were deported back by plane to Sofia. The entry stamps in their passports got crossed by the border police.
On 19th of November, refugees in Harmanli have gone on a hunger strike in the „closed type“ camp of Harmanli, among them more than 100 people, including children. Refugees tried to prevent a truck to enter the camp. Several refugees in Busmantsi and Lyubimets are striking with them. They are protesting against the miserable conditions, the lack of information and strained relation with security guards and dilapidated equipment. The camp was built for 450 people, but as of now more than 1200 inhabit it – according to the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) 1296 people are living there, but many more are still waiting to be registered. Many of the refugees are living in tents now. The filthy three toilets and eight showers are definitely not enough. The people there say that you can only get out of the camp if you have some money, the refugees suffering from the cold.
In 2012, the Bulgarian lawyer Valeria Ilareva stated that Bulgaria is sending asylum seekers to Greece without registering them as subjects that have sought protection. On the 11th of November, 2013, Bulgaria „closed the border“ to Turkey by sending 1166 policemen at the border. In a statement, the authorities explained that in 24 hours 97 “illegal immigrants” have been prevented to enter the territory of the country and have been sent back to the Turkish border police. The group was stopped in the Strandzha mountains, the prevention of crossing over happens at the so-called „green border“. This could be considered a violation of the Non-Refoulement principle, yet no sanctions have followed. In the coming days 300 more police officers will be deployed at the border with all-terrain-vehicles and trained dogs. The UNHCR warned Bulgaria about this treating of the, mostly, Syrian refugees and is searching more information about these incidents. Meanwhile the construction of the border fence, that is 30 km long, goes further.
The last refugee hungers strike in Bulgaria took part less than a month ago. As of currently new strike has swept the detention center in Busmantsi, near Sofia. A few days later, refugees went on a hunger strike in Lyubimets and Harmanli, too. The main demand of the people in the detention centers concerns the slow proceeding of their asylum application. Yet, they also criticize the conditions in the facilities, the brutality of the security and nonetheless, the fact that they are being detained. For right now, the capacity of the camps that belong to the State Agency for Refugees and the Bulgarian Interior Ministry in Sofia has been exceeded by 714 places. A number that is expected to grow.
In the beginning of October 2013, the executive director of FRONTEX called the Bulgarian-Turkish border the „the most important land border in the EU„. In another interview, he admitted that – from time to time – the agency is involved in the Refoulement on migrants. The Interior Minister of Bulgaria said, that the agency will send 29 employees to deal with the situation at the border. He added that almost 100% of the people crossing the border are detained. The Bulgarian parliament just voted for a 30 km wall with 3 m high barriers on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The Bulgarian Army began with the construction on the 24th of October 2013. UNHCR Bulgaria commented, that this may lead people to undertake more dangerous crossings.
In Sofia, in the three shelters Ovcha Kupel, Voenna Rampa and Vrazhdebna, there are more than 2000 refugees now. Some places are in a very bad condition, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) said, one could find fleas, lice and worms. There is already a health risk of hepatitis and dysentery. The Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reports, that there are already diseases spreading, like for instance tuberculosis. The mayor of Sofia said, there are deplorable conditions in the camps – as a lack of heating, vacancies, food and space – 30 people have to share one room. The interior minister claimed, that he won’t accept any more refugees in the city.