Bulgaria Refugee Agency Head BlamesTraffickers for Negative NGO Report
Nikolay Chirpanliev, Chair of Bulgaria's State Agency for Refugees, has rejected the allegations of international human rights organizations of cases of violence against refugees.
Human Rights Watch has argued in a report that Bulgarian border police pushed back into Turkey asylum seekers. At the same time, the Border Monitoring NGO is also looking into similar cases.
In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Chirpanliev suggested that the organizations were publishing data from 2013.
He insisted that human traffickers, whose highly-profitable business had been intercepted by Bulgarian authorities, were doing everything possible to affect public opinion and it was very possible that they had sent the alerts to the NGOs.
The report of Human Rights Watch, which is to be presented in Sofia on April 29, informs of 44 pushback incidents that involved at least 519 people since November 2013, when the Bulgarian government adopted "a new "containment" policy for preventing irregular entry at the Turkish border and "reducing the number of persons seeking protection in the territory of Bulgaria".
"Our research found Bulgarian border police caught people on Bulgarian soil and summarily returned them to Turkey without proper procedures and with no opportunity to lodge asylum claims, often using excessive force,"the report says.
"Nothing is true in this report," Chirpanliev complained, echoing the claims of Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev on the matter.
He attributed the distorted statements about the approach to illegal immigrants and refugees to the thwarted interests of human trafficking rings.
Chirpanliev, as cited by dnevnik.bg, specified that the crime rings mainly operated on the territory of Turkey, organizing the entry of Syrian and Afghan nationals into Bulgaria.
He claimed that Bulgaria occupied a front place in global rankings as regards the quality of statute granting procedures for refugees, adding that the Agency managed to process around 1500 applications a month with a very small staff compared to Western European countries.
Chirpanliev underscored that refugees did not need to enter Bulgaria as criminals and cross the border illegally but they simply had to show up at a border crossing point and say that they were asylum seekers, carrying their ID documents with them.
Instead, he said that they destroyed their ID documents before entering Bulgaria, following the advice of traffickers.
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Having said that it would not surprise me in the least to discover that trafficking gangs had reported Bulgaria for not allowing them to bring their customers into the country. After all, how could the traffickers continue making their fortunes if Bulgaria made it difficult for them?
If it turns out that minister Yovchev and chief Nikolay Chirpanliev did not have control over their people at the border, or worse, that they ordered such actions, they better prepare their resignation.
Human Right Watch will not write allegations without having solid proof. They have a global reputation to keep high, if not they loose all credibility.