Bulgaria's Refugee Agency Chair: Syria Crisis Unlikely to End Soon
Nikolay Chirpanliev is Chair of Bulgaria's State Agency for Refugees. He holds a PhD in Sociology. He held various posts at the Defense Ministry, Defense Ministry Inspectorate and the registry of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army.
What is the current number of refugees and by how much has the accommodation capacity been exceeded?
The Registration and Reception Center of the State Agency for Refugees in Sofia, which has a capacity to accommodate 860, has received 996 asylum seekers, meaning that the capacity has been exceeded by 16%. The Registration and Reception Center in the village of Banya, which has an accommodation capacity of 70, has received 137 people or 96% above its capacity. The transit center in the village of Pastrogor, which was meant to accommodate 300 asylum seekers, currently has 449 people staying there, or 50% above the capacity.
How are talks developing with the local population, for instance the village of Telish, where refugee centers may be established?
Society as a whole, and the local population in areas where asylum seekers are to be accommodated, must be informed about what they are to expect and who their new neighbors will be, be it for a certain period of time only. As regards the village of Telish, the problem is that the people have not been properly informed and are manipulated by political forces. It was announced repeatedly that no new refugee centers will be built in Bulgaria, be it in Telish or elsewhere. The government's policy is aimed at upgrading and improving the existing centers.
How much money do we need to cope with the refugee crisis and how much did we request from the EU?
It is difficult to specify the exact sum because refugee numbers keep changing on a daily basis. The European Commission has so far granted Bulgaria a total of EUR 6.9 M for the implementation of urgent measures for coping with the crisis.The United Nations High Commissariat for Refugees confirmed that they would provide assistance of USD 3.5 M to Bulgaria. The Czech Republic already allocated BGN 1.9 M for the crisis.
How long shall Bulgaria be capable of receiving refugees?
This is a political decision. The State Agency for Refugees is under obligation to fulfill ordinances of the government on the matter.
Can Bulgaria seek logistical assistance from the EU for repairing former military barracks to accommodate refugees?
Forecasts about what is going on in the Middle East are not optimistic. Judging by the information we have, the crisis in Syria will not end soon and the scale of the refugee problem will keep growing. This means that we must be prepared to not only receive refugees, but also to help them live in our country and to join efforts in seeking the right solutions for the difficulties we face. Apart from the measures for upgrading refugee centers, the political will to cope with the situation is confirmed by the activity of the National Operative Headquarters in charge of the refugee crisis, which was established in response to the increased migratory pressure.
How long does it take for a person who entered Bulgaria illegally to apply and be granted refugee status and what has changed in this respect?
Every foreigner who entered Bulgaria, be it legally or illegally, can apply for asylum in writing. The asylum application may be written in a language that they speak or write and submitted with the respective territorial unit of the State Agency for Refugees, the Migration Directorate of the Interior, the Border Police unit of the Interior or another state body.
Are there programs of the State Agency for Refugees for the cultural integration of refugees who want to live and work in Bulgaria?
The State Agency for Refugees implements the government's policy on refugees. Our measures and activities are aimed first and foremost at the social orientation and cultural adaptation of refugees with humanitarian or refugee status. These activities are conducted in line with the Asylum and Refugees Act and the National Strategy in the Field of Migration, Asylum and Integration for the period 2012-2020.
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