*Furious Bulgarians Protest outside British Embassy
Ataka leader, Volen Siderov (l), and Ataka followers staged an anti-British rally outside the British embassy in the capital Sofia. Photo by BGNES
By Daniel Miller
Hundreds of angry Bulgarians staged an anti-British rally today claiming it was 'arrogant' to assume hoards of eastern Europeans would flock to the UK for free handouts as soon as restrictions are relaxed.
The protest, which took place outside the British embassy in the capital Sofia this afternoon, was led by the ultra-right 'Ataka' group well known for its xenophobic views.
Their leader Volen Siderov accused the UK of double standards and branded the British government racist. He called for a boycott of British products and for the sale of Bulgarian property to Brits to be banned.
The embassy was forced to close as hundreds of his followers turned up in support - many wearing paramilitary gear.
From January 1, 2014, almost 30 million Romanians and Bulgarians will be entitled to live and work freely in the UK.
But Siderov branded the British people as 'arrogant', claiming they look down at Romanians and Bulgarians by expecting them to immediately head to the UK to live off the British taxpayer.
He rallied his followers in a show of hatred towards the Britain, demanding an official apology from for the way they claim they have been 'offended' in recent British media campaigns.
He said Britain had carried out an arrogant and humiliating hate campaign against Bulgarians and demanded they should apologise.
He said: 'No person, wherever they may be from, has the right to affect the rights of Bulgarian citizens and to affect the dignity of our nation.'
He claimed Britain was going against the principals of the EU and was discriminating based on race, religion, and ethnicity.
During the protest thousands of leaflets were handed out which were addressed to the British Ambassador to Bulgaria, Jonathan Allen.
The leaflets said: 'Your excellency, in view of the aforesaid I insist that instantly and formally the UK expresses an apology to Bulgaria and all Bulgarian citizens.
I believe it is necessary to inform you that I will refer the issue to the European Commission in Bulgaria and to all competent institutions at national and European level, requesting their opinion on the matter.'
Bulgarian Gosho Elenkov, 40, who was at the protest, said: 'The UK may be an attractive place to work in comparison to here.
But I would rather go to a nicer country with good weather. What the Brits have said about us Bulgarians is insulting. We are not lazy people. I am hard working. I would want to work in the UK and not live on benefits.
Another protestor Mladen Ivov, 31, said: 'I don't know why Britain thinks everyone wants to go there. The people think they are superior to us.
'They have no respect. In my opinion many Brits are lazy. Bulgarians are hard working people. Many people go to the UK and find it easy to get work, but many are only doing work which British people do not want to do.
'They prefer to live on the social benefits they accuse us of begging for.'
Philip Zamfirov, 16, who was at the protest, said: 'I want to go to the UK. I have been learning English and I want to go there to improve. England is well known to have a great education system, but I have been made to feel like a second class citizen and fear I would be treated that way if I went to England.'
Siderov had recently claimed that Britain had always been hostile towards Bulgaria and he stated this went back to the Ottoman Empire.
He claimed: 'This is a nation that has always hated us and never wanted us to exist,' adding that all the acts of Winston Churchill, whom the ultra-nationalist described as a 'degenerate alcoholic' - were aimed at the destruction of Bulgaria.
'British people coming to buy property in Bulgaria should be given a hostile reception. Russians should be given visa exemption for Bulgaria but, in turn, Sofia should require visa applications from British people,' he added.
Officially, there are 42,000 Bulgarians in the UK, but unofficially it could be up to 80,000. There are also thought to be 93,000 Romanians already here.
In Germany there are more than 90,000 Bulgarians and 159,000 Romanians. They are not allowed to work legally until January 1, as in Britain. But they can stay under EU rules if they declare themselves to be ‘self-employed’.
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