Following a visit to the newly-opened reception centre in the Sofia suburb of Vrazhdebna, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), an ECRE member, has called for the immediate resignation of the management of Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees, arguing that the Agency has failed in providing asylum seekers, most of them fleeing the Syrian war, with the minimum conditions of shelter, food and medical treatment.

BHC describe the conditions in the centre as “dreadful”, with refugees who have survivedSyria’s war, including mothers, babies, children and injured people, hosted in a crumbling building without heating, with broken windows, and without adequate medical care. 

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee expresses its definite opinion that such treatment of refugees is not only an emblematic example of the red tape and indifference to the needs of people typical for Bulgarian State institutions, but also constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment and display of white-collar cruelty of the highest order”.

According to BHC, excuses of the leadership of the Agency that they were unprepared for the increasing number of refugees are not acceptable. “First of all, the arrival of 5,000 people this year can in no way be described as a “mass influx” of refugees, especially compared to Syria’s neighbouring countries, which are hosting more than half a million refugees each, or other European countries such as Hungary, which since the beginning of 2013 has received more than 15,000 refugees. In addition, since the end of 2010 UNHCR and refugee-assisting NGOs regularly warned the government and in particular the management of the State Agency for Refugees about the deterioration of the crisis in Syria and the expected increase in refugee arrivals and called on the Agency to increase its reception capacity”, BHC said.

Bulgaria receives annually around 500,000 € from the EU to meet its obligation regarding the reception of asylum seekers.

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 This article originally appeared in ECRE Weekly Bulletin 27 September 2013.

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