Amnesty International: Refugees, Roma Continue to be Mistreated in Bulgaria
In its annual report on the state of human rights in the world released on Wednesday, Amnesty International states that refugees and Roma continued to be mistreated in Bulgaria in 2015.
According to the report, there continued to be alleged push-backs of refugees and migrants by border police, reception conditions of asylum-seekers remained poor, while the country had no integration plan for recognized refugees.
Amnesty International also notes that local and national authorities continued to forcibly evict Roma and that the amendment of legislation on hate crime had stalled.
The report claims that the number of refugees and migrants entering through the border with Turkey increased four times after the significant drop registered in 2014 due to the introduction of border protection measures.
The document mentions the plan of Bulgarian authorities to extend the 33-kilometre fence on the border with Turkey by sixty kilometers to divert migrant influx to official border crossings.
However NGOs informed that people who were in search of international protection and attempted to enter Bulgaria through checkpoints were rejected.
Amnesty International reminds of the incident in October last year in which an Afghan asylum-seeker was killed after a shot fired by a border police officer reportedly ricocheted off a bridge.
The report notes that Bulgaria continued to lack integration plan for refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection.
Although the government adopted a national strategy on migration, asylum and integration for the 2015-2020 period, no action plan on its implementation followed suit.
The reception conditions, in particular with regard to food, shelter and access to healthcare and sanitary goods, remained poor, while the monthly allowance of EUR 33 was stopped.
Last March, two Iraqi Yazidis died of hypothermia on the Turkish side of the border after allegedly being beaten by Bulgarian police.
The report then turns to the mistreatment of Roma, stating that Bulgaria continued to evict Roma communities from illegal and informal settlements, with some Roma relocated to inadequate housing, while others were left homeless.
Amnestry International notes the clashes occurring between Bulgarians and Roma in the village of Garmen in May and June 2015 over the demolition of illegal Roma houses.
Roma houses were also demolished in the neighbourhood of Maksuda in Varna and in the town of Peshtera, while there were Bulgarian-Roma clashes in the neighbourhood of Orlandovtsi in Sofia.
The authors of the report are concerned of the high levels of racism and intolerance against several groups including refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, who remained particularly vulnerable to violence and harassment.
The hate crimes against Roma, Muslims, Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities continued to be largely prosecuted as act of hooliganism.
The report identifies the juvenile justice system as inadequate and calls for comprehensive reform.
The authors also note the slow pace of deinstitutionalization of children and adults with disabilities.
According to Amnestry International, Roma children, poor children and disabled children continue to be overrepresented in such institutions.
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