By Clive Leviev _ Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s Cabinet is to consider a draft plan on dealing with the refugee situation in the country, which includes seven new goals, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said on November 4 2013.
His statement came as official figures said that accommodation for refugees in Bulgaria now was exceeded by close to 1200 places and after a weekend in which ultra-nationalists sought to whip up emotions over the refugee issue, calling for expulsions and closing of Bulgaria’s borders after an incident in which a shop assistant was stabbed, allegedly by a refugee from Algeria.
Yovchev told a news conference that reducing the number of illegal migrants in Bulgaria was “top priority” in the action plan for dealing with the crisis that had resulted from a sharp increase in the number of people entering Bulgaria to seek support.
“Generally, the plan aims at solving the problem around the intensive migration pressure on Bulgaria. Apart from the goals, initiatives and activities, the plan also includes the necessary resources – technical, material, and financial, as well as the deadlines and a plan about who will assume responsibility for its implementation,” Yovchev said, quoted by local news agency Focus.
“The first goal is cutting the number of the illegal immigrants. In this regard, there will be restrictions on the number of people who enter the territory of the country and speeding up the procedure of expelling the people, who have no grounds to stay here,” Yovchev said.
“Another goal is guaranteeing the security of the Bulgarian citizens, as well as restricting the risks,” he said.
A further goal in the action plan envisages refugees being self-supporting, contributing to the social system and effective communication with society.
On November 4, the Interior Ministry said that the capacity of State Agency for Refugees and Interior Ministry facilities was 4000 and currently this figure was exceeded by 1199 people.
About 281 illegal immigrants had been detained at the Bulgarian-Turkish border over the past three days, the ministry said. Of these, 146 were Syrian citizens.
November 4 saw the residents of the village of Tellish becoming the latest to protest against a purported plan to shelter refugees locally.
Mayor Nelly Dakova told local media that a former military base was being converted to shelter refugees and that camp beds, chemical toilets and other equipment had been delivered.
Protesting residents of Tellish blocked the Sofia-Rousse road for some time on the morning of November 4. Dakova said that residents were “firmly against” refugees being sheltered in the village.
Bulgaria’s European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, whose portfolio is humanitarian aid and crisis response, said in a television interview that an excessive influx of refugees was a new problem for Bulgarians and they were not used to dealing with it.
Institutions should join in efforts to inform Bulgarians about the and explain to Bulgarians that they should help refugees rather than fear them, Georgievasaid.
She said that Bulgaria soon would receive financial assistance to cope with the refugee situation.
This past weekend, nationalist party VMRO and ultra-nationalists Ataka staged separate protests demanding that illegal migrants be repatriated and Bulgaria’s borders closed to them.
Speaking on November 4, Plamen Oresharski, appointed in May to sit in the prime minister’s chair in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, told reporters that displays of xenophobia that had been seen in Bulgaria in the past few days would have a “highly negative effect” on Bulgaria’s image in the long run.