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.
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.
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.