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.
While the European Commission (EC) is discussing if financial aid is to be relocated to Bulgaria in order to cover the growing expenses connected to the refugees fleeing into the country, the numbers of people that are crossing the border (usually the Turkish-Bulgarian border) is increasing enormously with each day. In the beginning of October 2013, the head of the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) was dismissed from his job. Among other things, he was accused for the overloading of the refugee camps and the incapability of the institution to cope with the increased number of asylum-seekers.
At the moment, camps in Bulgaria are overcrowded, people are sleeping in corridors or even in the streets, because there is no place for them. According to the Bulgarian Red Cross, 1500 refugees are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and a further 500 are in vulnerable condition. More than 2000 refugees were detained, only in the month of September 2013.
A 58-year-old Syrian woman who had become ill in the „Reception Center“ in Sofia/Ovcha Kupel had to wait more than 30 minutes for the ambulance. Her son managed it to got to hospital with her by a private car. The woman died in Sofia’s Pirogov emergency hospital. The incident triggered tension, refugees called on the police by themselves to investigate the case. Few times later, Police teams arrived at the „Reception Center“. A spokesperson from the UNCHR said, that the centers, operated by the government, are „overcrowded and the conditions are unsafe and dire“. The State Agency for Refugees (SAR) made a press release about the incident.
Refugees, who stayed this year in the ‚closed camp‘ Lyubimetz said, that they have been beaten by camp officials. The situation in the camp is like a prison, stated a member of the UNHCR – the same goes for the Detention Center in Busmantsi. 2013 several hunger strikes were declared in these centers in June, August and September.