13 February 2015

A report by Amnesty International has highlighted a spike in attacks against asylum seekers and migrants as well as other minority groups in Bulgaria. The NGO says that Bulgaria’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute such hate crimes is fuelling fear, discrimination and ultimately violence in the country.

The report notes a failure to identify, investigate and prosecute hate crimes in a manner that accounts for their discriminatory motive. Although amendments to Bulgarian law in 2011 mean that discriminatory elements of such crimes must be taken into account, there is a tendency to consider these crimes as being motivated by hooliganism, which entails softer punishments.

Amnesty believes that many cases of violence go unreported and hate crimes are largely hidden and unacknowledged. Many victims were scared to report their attack or, if they did, found that their rights were not respected and they were not kept informed of the follow-up of their case.

Among the NGO’s recommendations is the focus that judges need to give to the discriminatory element of hate crimes, and the improvement of effective investigations into incidents of hate crime. Amnesty International also encourages better training of state officials.

Amnesty calls on the EU to raise awareness of the issue and to adopt guidelines on the implementation of the EU’s Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia to ensure that any alleged discriminatory motive is thoroughly investigated and taken into account in the prosecution phase.

According to Amnesty International, the spike in hate crimes targeting minorities corresponds to a sudden increase in the number of refugees and migrants crossing the country’s border from Turkey. 11,150 migrants and refugees entered irregularly in Bulgaria in 2013, with over three quarters arriving between August and November. This number is more than six times the number of asylum seekers and migrants who had crossed the same border in 2012.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 February 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.