Middle East

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A boy tries to light a fire to warm himself at the refugee camp at Harmanli. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • A Syrian girl prepares a fire in front of tents at a refugee camp in Harmanli, 280 km (173 miles) east of Sofia, December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Pierre Marsaut
  • Cooking at Harmanli refugee center, Bulgaria. The UNHCR provides one hot meal/day/person at four camps, but funding will run out in late January.
  • Bulgarian doctors perform medical checkups on Syrian children at a refugee centre in Sofia October 26, 2013.
  • In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, migrants waiting for a meal in the center for asylum seekers in the village of Bogovadja, 50 Kilometers (30 Miles) south of Serbian capital, Belgrade form a line.
  • A Syrian woman looks out of the window of a container home at the refugee camp in Harmanli, 280km (174 miles) east of Sofia December 9, 2013.
  • A boy enjoys a warm winter day at the closed container and tent camp in Harmanli. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • Container homes at Harmanli refugee reception center, Bulgaria.
  • Syrian refugee have their lunch at a refugee camp as they wait for the visit of Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response and Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, November 22, 2013.
  • Most of the refugee families live dormitory style, maintaining privacy with curtains of sheets or blankets, in the temporary accommodation center at Voenna Rampa, Sofia. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • A girl uses her mobile device in the temporary refugee accommodation centrer in Vrajdebna. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • Supporters of a Nationalist movement protest in the town of Pernik, near Sofia November 17, 2013. Nationalist supporters gathered to protest against the plans of the local municipality to shelter immigrants in detention centers. REUTERS
  • Demonstrators participate in a rally in central Sofia November 17, 2013. Several hundred people gathered in a peaceful march under the slogan "Warning! Fascism!" to protest against recent violence against refugees and migrants.
  • Mother Ihlas Kambar, 36, lives with her two children, Faris and Ahmed, and the baby of the brother of her husband. They are in Busmanci Detention centre in Sofia. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • Syrian mother waiting to be fingerprinted in the closed container and tent camp in Harmanli. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • Syrian refugee Hannan Jendo and his daughter asitting in in the spot which used to be their tent space. Now they are living in new room with better conditions in one of the repaired buildings in the camp in Harmanli. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov
  • Syrian mother holds her grandson close to the stove in front of their closed container house in the refugee camp in Harmanli. UNHCR/D.Kashavelov

Syrian Refugees Face Poor Living Conditions, Xenophobia in Bulgaria

Cecily Hilleary

Published January 08, 2014

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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