Over Half of Bulgarians Approve Citizen's Arrests - Poll

Politics » DOMESTIC | April 18, 2016, Monday // 08:41
Bulgaria: Over Half of Bulgarians Approve Citizen's Arrests - Poll File photo, EPA/BGNES

More than half of Bulgarians generally approve the idea of volunteеr patrols of citizens detaining migrants who have crossed into the country, an Alpha Research poll shows.

The poll, ordered by private broadcaster NOVA TV, reveals that a total of 54.8% of respondents agree citizen's arrest should be used to deter migrants.

Of those, 29.4% said they "categorically" approved such a form of detention, while 25.4% "partly" approved it.

The rest are divided, with 25.4% rather disapproving, 17.5% firmly against, and 2.2% not having replied.

The poll has followed a controversial video was uploaded on Facebook showing citizen's arrests of migrants that sparked an outcry from human rights organizations and international media and prompted the government to distance itself from the patrols.

Petar Nizamov, the man who published the video and captured the three Afghans with plastic straps tying their hands behind their backs, was then placed under house arrest.

Separately, 54.8% say volunteers should provide assistance in the detention of migrants, but only if their actions are coordinated with police, while only 16.2% maintain everyone should be able to do such arrests freely.

Some 28.5% of respondents replied it is only the state that could engage in detentions.

The issue has become divisive in Bulgaria, with supporters and opponents of the practice citing different legal interpretation.

According to Article 142 (1) of the Bulgarian Criminal Code, "A person who kidnaps another person in view of unlawfully depriving him/her of liberty."

However, defenders of citizen's arrests, who maintain volunteering patrols do not breach the law, cite the code's Article 12a (1), which reads that: "It shall not be considered dangerous to society if damages are inflicted on a person who has committed a crime, where this occurs in the course of detention of such person for his/her delivery to the authorities and for prevention of opportunities for committing another crime, provided there is no other way to detain such person and provided the necessary lawful measures have not been exceeded."

The number of vigilante migrant hunters has increased since a TV report was aired about Dinko Valev, a resident of the southern Bulgarian town of Yambol who purports to capture migrants crossing illegally into the country with his "bare hands".

The share of Bulgarians who believe migrants pose a risk to national security is now 79.4%, up from 55.5% in 2013 (the year when Bulgaria was one of the first European countries to face a substantial migrant inflow from Syria, with thousands crossing and applying for asylum in the summer and the autumn).

However, readiness to help people seeking asylum with money or clothing is also on the rise, at 76.3% in April of this year compared to 57.3% in 2013.

More people are also willing to provide assistance as volunteers - 35%, compared to 2013's 15%.

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Tags: citizen's arrests, detention, Criminal Code, vigilantes, migrant hunters, Peter Nizamov
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