25 Oct, SOFIA – Tensions mounted Monday inside Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp as several hundred Afghan migrants launched a protest demanding they be allowed to continue their journey toward western Europe, a rights group said.
Some 300 people demonstrated at the Harmanli reception centre near the Turkish border, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said.
“They are protesting the fact that they’re being held in Bulgaria against their will and want to continue to Serbia and from there to (western) Europe,” spokeswoman Iliana Savova told AFP.
The Bulgarian interior ministry confirmed there were “tensions” inside the centre, which houses 3,800 migrants.
Officials added that negotiations with the striking Afghans were ongoing.
Some 13,000 illegal migrants remain stranded inside Bulgaria, after other key transit countries along the western Bproalkan route shut their borders earlier this year.
Around 70 percent are Afghans and 12 percent Syrians, according to government data.
Bulgaria recently announced a near doubling of its capacities to house asylum-seekers, paid for with EU funds, as the bloc’s poorest member state struggles to cope with the continent’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
The government said Friday it planned to open three new camps near the border with Turkey, home to around three million refugees mostly from neighbouring Syria.
Bulgaria has also built a barbed wire fence that will soon cover most of its 259-kilometre (160-mile) border with Turkey. (AFP)