Bulgaria to Provide Comprehensive Medical Care at Refugee Centers
As of April, comprehensive medical services will be provided at all refugee centers in Bulgaria, according to Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev.
In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Yovchev explained that the living conditions at the center in Harmanli had been improved, vowing that the same would happen in Sofia-based sites in two months.
He emphasized that a great deal of effort had gone into improving living conditions for refugees over the past few months, stressing that the upgrades had been made using public funding because the first batches of EU aid had only arrived a few days ago.
Yovchev, as cited by dnevnik.bg, made clear that at the current stage there was no threat of Bulgaria being penalized by the European Commission due to the living conditions at refugee centers.
He admitted, however, that EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom had sent a letter to Bulgarian authorities, listing three major criticisms.
The Interior Minister argued that the accusations that Bulgaria failed to provide access of Syrian refugees to third countries was unfounded because it was not a neighboring country, which also applied to Turkey and other neighbors.
As regards criticism concerning the living conditions at refugee centers, he added that food supplies for these sites would be provided with public funding as of February and Bulgaria would not rely on international aid.
Regarding accusations that Bulgaria had not ensured swift registration and processing of documents of asylum seekers, he pointed out that the number of permits issued by the State Agency for Refugees had increased from 550 in 2011 to 609 in 2012 to 2800 in 2013, with a total of around 800 permits forecast for January 2014.
Yovchev underscored that the organization of the process had changed and new pieces of equipment had been brought to ensure a faster pace of work.
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