Mayor of Bulgarian Town Seeks to Expel Syrian Family
The mayor of Elin Pelin, not far from the Bulgarian capital Sofia, has told a Syrian family of three to leave the municipality despite the fact they have been granted humanitarian status.
A report aired by private bTV broadcaster shows Fakhim and his wife, Fatima, who left Aleppo after their house was destroyed in the war 5 years back.
After staying in Turkey, they arrived in Bulgaria six months ago, in search of a calm place to stay, Fakhim says.
But Elin Pelin municipality is declining their request to issue ID documents for them, even though their humanitarian status obliges local authorities to do so.
The couple, who arrived with their youngest son, aged 6, say they will refrain from trying to go anywhere else for fear the same development may occur.
It was their eldest son, who has lived and worked in Bulgaria for three years, that found them a place to stay. A Bulgarian National Television report, aired the same day, shows him speaking Bulgarian in an intelligible manner.
Mayor Ivaylo Simeonov has told bTV the family should find another place to settle as people from every village and town of the municipality are against having refugees accommodated there.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Bulgaria has seen a declining share of arrivals from Syria and a rising one from Afghanistan. The latter become the cause for alarm in some Bulgarian regions, where they are associated by locals with instances of crime and violence.
The Syrian family is no source of concern to Elin Pelin, but once they are taken in, others will arrive, "probably from Afghanistan," a local, one of those who gathered on the main square for bTV's live reporting, is heard saying.
A similar case, but with Afghan unaccompanied minors, made headlines after some residents of Shiroka Laka,a village in southern Bulgaria protested against having them accommodated in a municipal institution, instead of a center with the State Agency for Refugees.
The mayor maintains the three Syrians currently live there in breach of the law and "measures" will be undertaken.
Akram Nayuf, a lawyer and a member of one organization of Syrians in Bulgaria, has said the municipality's plans amount to a violation of international conventions as granting humanitarian status means a person is legally residing in a country.
His words come after the previous government adopted last year a package of measures providing for municipalities to receive funding for the accommodation and a number of services for status holders (for the ones granted asylum or international protection) if these sign certain agreements with local authorities.
Mayor Simeonov says the decision not to accommodate refugees and humanitarian status bearers was taken after residents of an adjacent village informed him he could profit from accommodating refugees.
Syrians, alongside Iraqis and nationals of other Middle Eastern states, have been part of Bulgaria's society for decades.
But another Elin Pelin local is heard saying: "[Even] a Turk has never set foot here, let alone a Syrian."
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