Hundreds join protest in Bulgaria demanding closure of local refugee camp

On Sunday angry residents in Harmanli, a town in the south-east of the country, staged an anti-migrant march, as they chanted slogans like “newcomers out!” and “Bulgaria above all, refugees out!”
Angel Dzhambazki, a European Parliament Member and Vice-President of the Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO) attended the event and said residents should not have to live in fear because of migrants.

He told the crowd: “People of Harmanli want to live in safety, not to be ill from sicknesses unknown from 100 years ago in Europe, carried by some Afghan farmer.

“People do not want to meet these people at night.”

It is the third time in two months protests against the country’s largest camp, which hosts around 1,500 asylum seekers mainly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, have been staged.In October, locals from the town expressed anger over reports the camp would potentially double in size.

The Harmanli refugee centre is expected to increase capacity to exceed 3,000, in a town with just over 18,000 residents.

Officials plan to eventually expand this to nearly 5,000 – meaning that nearly one in three of those in the remote Bulgarian town could be a refugee in the next year.

Tempers boiled over at the announcement, and frustrated locals took to the streets to protest the expansion as they demanded the camp should be shut down.

The October demonstration was also fuelled by concerns about possible violence and petty crime, as the locals claimed there have been incidents involving some of the camp residents over the past years.

In September, a mass brawl between two groups of 800 migrants – from Iraq and Afghanistan – prompted the police to intervene and a strict ban on drinking alcohol was enforced in the camp.

A speaker at the October protest against the migrant camp said: “We don’t want them in the town at all, or at least they should be locked up and not allowed in the town.”

Anti-migrant protest

Local organiser of the anti-refugee rally, Yankee Vassilev added: “It’s about time someone ended this lunacy.

“Someone has artificially planted 3,500 individuals who have an unclear status they are totally incompatible with our culture and are people we do not wish to see.

“Of course, we are terrified. This place becomes inaccessible to locals in the evening. It is taken over by Afghans and it becomes unsafe.

“Refugees are constantly being settled here. Their number is up to 3,500.”

A number of other anti-migrant marches have also been staged around Bulgaria, including in the capital Sofia.

 

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