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Syrian Refugees Face Poor Living Conditions, Xenophobia in Bulgaria

  • Cecily Hilleary
More than two and a half million Syrians have fled the country as refugees, settling in neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. As many as 6,000 have fled as far as Bulgaria, one of the poorest countries of the 28-member European Union and a gateway to Europe. There, say rights and humanitarian groups, they must cope with substandard living conditions and a rising xenophobia that is being fueled by the careless statements of nationalist politicians and right-wing media outlets. A poll conducted in early December 2013 showed that 62.2% of Bulgarians do not want any more refugees coming to the country. 15% agree Bulgaria should continue to accept refugees, and 22.7% have no opinion. A poll taken in late September 2013 showed that 83% of Bulgarians see Syrian refugees as a threat to national security.
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Map of Bulgaria
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Map of Bulgaria

Border police stand guard next to razor wire fence along Bulgarian border with Turkey, November 28, 2013. When finished, the fence will span 19 miles of border where patrolling is most difficult.
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Border police stand guard next to razor wire fence along Bulgarian border with Turkey, November 28, 2013. When finished, the fence will span 19 miles of border where patrolling is most difficult.

Border policemen stand guard along border with Turkey, near the village of Golyam Dervent, Thursday, Nov., 28 2013.  The UNHCR says Syrians are smuggled across the border in small groups.
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Border policemen stand guard along border with Turkey, near the village of Golyam Dervent, Thursday, Nov., 28 2013.  The UNHCR says Syrians are smuggled across the border in small groups.

Syrian refugees try to stay warm near open fires in front of their unheated tents in a refugee camp in the town of Harmanli, Bulgaria, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.
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Syrian refugees try to stay warm near open fires in front of their unheated tents in a refugee camp in the town of Harmanli, Bulgaria, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.

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