Nikolay Chirpanliev: Bulgaria received 1,102 asylum requests from refugees in August, almost as much as for the entire 20128 September 2014 | 11:59 | FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mr Chirpanliev, the new school year is about to start in Bulgaria in September. Did the Syrian refugees take advantage of the chance for their children to study and go to school in Bulgaria?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: Up to the present date, some 594 Syrian refugees have children, who are of school age. 329 of them are studying Bulgarian at our centres.
Looking at these figures we see that big part of the refugees have decided that they do not want their children to study Bulgarian. So far some 40 children have been enrolled at school.
FOCUS: What are the reasons for the refugees to refuse to send their kids to Bulgarian schools?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: The most logical reason is that the refugee families are willing to continue their trip and settle in other West European countries or other countries in Europe. Some of them are heading at countries that are not members of the European Union (EU).
And that is why they think there is no need for their kids to study at Bulgarian schools.
FOCUS: Will in any way refugees’ refusal to send their kids to school in Bulgaria affect their refugee status and for how long can they stay in such a situation?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: There is no connection between children’s going to school in Bulgaria and the issuance of a refugee status.
FOCUS: How many people are waiting for a refugee status in Bulgaria at the moment?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: By September 4, there are a total of 2,117 refugees, together with their kids at the centres. Speaking outside these figures, there are 2,673 who are outside the centres but only 463 of them keep contact with us, i.e. we know where they are and these are people, who have launched the procedure.
The rest have not informed us about where they have settled, if they have at all.
Generally, we have 4,550 people under refugee status issuance procedure. Those, who do not show up on the set date, will have their procedures terminated and will get a refusal.
FOCUS: Mr Chirpanliev, would you tell us something more about the current living conditions provided to the refugees in Bulgaria.
Nikolay Chirpanliev: The conditions are the same as our agency has given example for – for a short period of time we secured really decent living conditions. This is a fact thanks to the efforts of all colleagues, who often worked extra hours, including during the weekend.
The shelters meet the requirements of the European Union and of the UNHCR. We are working in this direction every single day. We have the support of the UNHCR, which is about to finalise the financing of the kitchen corpus with modern equipment in few weeks, as well as of the canteens, in all our centres. The UNHCR will also build sports playgrounds for the kids.
We also received donations from the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Thanks to the Netherlands, we build laundry rooms at all our centres, as well as other needed facilities.
We are trying to improve the standard and the living conditions every single day.
FOCUS: How much does a refugee cost for a day?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: Under the law, we pay BGN 65 per a refugee monthly. Speaking of the food supply, it costs BGN 3.60 a day.
Generally, the maintenance of a refugee a month costs around BGN 350 to the State Agency for Refugees but I would like to stress that the sum includes all material conditions, as well as factors, that will remain in Bulgaria.
FOCUS: Can the already existing refugee centres shelter more people?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: The capacity of the refugee centres is 6,000 people, while at the moment they are sheltering around 2,117. In case of extreme situation we may provide 1,800-2,000 more places but they will not be within the minimum requirements of the world humanitarian organisations.
Up to present, we have enough resource to tackle a new refugee wave.
I would like to stress that in the entire 2011 we had 900 registered refugees, in 2012 – 1,380, in 2013 – 7,144, while up to September 4, 2014 – 5,554.
We are about to surpass the figures for the previous year in October 2014.
We will report more refugees, who have asked for asylum, that in the previous year when the refugee issue had its peak.
For your information, only in August 2014 we have 1,102 asylum requests, which is almost the same number as for the entire 2012. The number of requests is increasing.
FOCUS: What countries do the refugees asking for asylum in Bulgaria come from?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: Around 82% - 83% of the refugees are from Syria. Depending on the different months, up to 10% - 14% are from Afghanistan, while the rest come from different countries.
FOCUS: What would you say about refugees’ integration?
Nikolay Chirpanliev: Certain media came out with the information that the State Agency for Refugees has generally coped with the refugee crisis but failed in terms of the integration programme and policy.
In the first place, I would like to stress that the Agency has no engagements in terms of the integration of these people.
Our capacity, resource and finances are active since the moment these people file requests for protection and when they get an answer – either positive or negative, they have a two-week deadline to stay at the centres, after that they have to leave.
Our agency has nothing to do with their integration after that.
This is a really important issue. In Sweden, for example, there are 4,400 people in charge of these issues, bearing in mind that the asylum requests the country receives are more than 80,000 in peak years.
Let us say that Bulgaria has ten times smaller number, then it is logical to have no less than 400-500 people n charge of this.
At the moment, our capacity is 306 people, i.e. we cannot deal with these processes, too.
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