Analyst Zhivko Georgiev: Bulgaria Deserves Help over Syrian Refugee Influx
Interview of Novinite.com and Novinite.bg with Zhivko Georgiev, a Gallup sociologist and political analyst, on Syrian refugee influx to Bulgaria and what may come next.
As the numbers of Syrians fleeing violence in their homeland and heading for Bulgaria is increasing, where should the Balkan country take its cue from – Europe or Turkey?
It does not take an expert to see that the European Union and the International Refugee Organization can do the most to alleviate the situation. It is not only a question of money. It is about know-how, ideas, policies on integration, etc.
Bulgaria does not have lots of experience in this area. We faced similar issues at the beginning of the twentieth century and obviously this experience is outdated already. But there are other differences too. Those refugees were mostly Bulgarians. There was no language barrier, no culture shock. Bulgaria needs help in all these areas and we should not feel embarrassed or humiliated to seek assistance.
It would be good if government officials seek assistance and support from the NGO sector, which is quite well versed in integration policies, or from local authorities.
It is impossible for one single institution or a group of institutions on one single level of competence to cope with the problem.
Turkey itself is in pretty serious situation, because there are hundreds of thousands refugees there. I do not see how Turkey could help us.
Unofficial data says that refugees in Turkey are about half a million, while in Bulgaria they are a bit over 5 000. How acute is the refugee problem in Bulgaria?
Turkey is a large country, Jordan also has sheltered about half a million refugees. But these countries are in favorable situations as far as cultural and language issues are concerned or rather the lack of such issues. Refugees speak languages ??that are known in those countries, there is no cultural incompatibility on a large scale.
We should try not to fix on the question how acute this problem is and go melodramatic over the headaches it brings. Even if the number of refugees in Bulgaria exceed 10 000 at one point, this should not be a problem for our society, especially if officials seek help from abroad.
What is the typical profile of the refugees, who flee to Bulgaria? Do we have reasons to worry about something?
It will take a research to know the answer to that question and I am not in a position to say I know the process well. Generally speaking, I don't think that we have reasons to worry and be scared.
Let's not forget that this country has been one of the most secular in the Arab world and this is something that certainly defines the profile of most refugees, many of them are well educated.
No small part probably are relatively well educated. Not exclude that has crept by representatives of radical Islam from different branches, but they are few . We have a national security system that should be able to identify such people.
I am not saying that it is impossible to have radical Islam proponents among the refugees, but these are certainly just few. Bulgarian's national security system is responsible for identifying them.
Still, can we expect a clash of civilizations, so to say, as a result of the refugee influx to Bulgaria?
Yes, may be, to some extent we will witness this type of clash, especially in the local communities, which take in those refugees. The citizens in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna have been living with people from different cultures for centuries on end and a culture shock is unlikely there.
Why did Bulgaria turn out to be unprepared to cope with the Syrian influx?
No society is fully prepared to cope with large refugee masses. Italy also was not ready to handle properly the refugee flow in the wake of events in Tunisia and Libya.
Bulgaria's biggest problem is that we have very limited capacity to welcome and integrate refugees who are very different from the majority. Now is the second time that Bulgaria faces a refugee influx for the last hundred years, which is the reason why we don't have proper infrastructure and legislation.
Should Bulgaria build a barrier along its southeastern border with Turkey to prevent Syrian refugees entering illegally? What will be the impact on the Syrian refugees influx? How will the move be viewed abroad?
This is not fair play. Bulgaria should tighten control measures, but building a wall is definitely wrong. Bulgaria’s immediate priority should be cracking down illegal trafficking, as well as criminal business activities, which are flourishing during refugee crises.
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