21 February 2014

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Frank Engel, EPP-LU and Sylvie Guillaume, S&D-FR, have this week presented their report on the visit of a delegation of MEPs to Bulgaria earlier this month, which focuses on the situation of asylum seekers and refugees in the country, in particular from Syria. The visit has led the delegation to urge EU countries not to send asylum seekers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation, call also made earlier this year by UNHCR and ECRE.

According to the report, the delegation is deeply concerned about the reception conditions for asylum seekers and refugees, in particular at the centre of Voenna Rampa. According to the MEPs, the main problems in this centre are the lack of distribution of hot meals, the need for medical assistance for people, and the fact that the buildings are not designed to host refugees and therefore have insufficient heating, not enough kitchens and sanitary facilities, and few facilities for children or recreational activities.

Belgium and Denmark have already announced this month that returns to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation will be suspended due to the poor conditions experienced by asylum seekers.

The delegation stresses that access to the EU territory is crucial to ensure the right to asylum and constitutes a legal obligation under EU and International law. According to the report, the number of people crossing the border with Turkey has drastically decreased in the last months – from approximately 3,000 people per day in October 2013 to some hundreds per day in December, down to 30 people per day in January 2014. The report explains that this decrease is due to the deployment of 1,500 Bulgarian policemen along the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The MEPs also state that the Bulgarian authorities are planning to build a 30 km long wire fence at the border.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21 February 2014
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