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There will be no wars over refugees in the Balkans

06 November 2015 / 17:11:57  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

There will be no wars over refugees in the Balkans. This was the comment of Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ivaylo Kalfin in Athens on the warning by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The prime ministers of the three Balkan countries through which the main floods are passing, namely the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian, denied her words the next day. There will be no Balkan wars but the Balkans cannot again pay the price for someone else’s decisions or for the lack of decisions," he said in response to GRReporter's question during a panel on "Refugees and Migration - Social Policy. A Dialogue between Neighbours" that took place within context of the 11th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media.

"Border closing will not come from Austria or Germany. The opposite will happen although Germany is denying it for the time being. In such a situation all borders from Germany to the southern border will be closed within an hour and no refugee will be allowed to cross them. It could not be otherwise, because it would mean that the Balkan countries would end up pressed by those refugees who would return, pushed away by Germany and Austria and by those who would come from the south. Therefore, there will be no wars but bad developments are possible and a common European policy is what can protect us from them," the Minister added.

He stressed that no single country in Europe could solve the refugee problem alone and called for the adoption of joint solutions. "The problem has been present for years but underestimated despite the warnings by countries such as Greece, Italy and Malta," said Kalfin.

He defined the "phenomenon" of mass unorganized crossing of European borders as unprecedented in Europe to this day. On the other hand, he pointed out that the problem was not in the number of refugees but in the impression of their uncontrollable arrival. "A sense of uncertainty is being created and it will play a practical joke on the European politics and integration."

According to Ivaylo Kalfin, 13,000 refugees have been registered in Bulgaria since the beginning of the year, most of whom have already left the country. In his words, there is no need to create a "hot spot" for refugee identification and reception on the Bulgarian territory, as the country is not a preferred transit or final destination.

"Bulgaria's position is that the decision on the application of quotas is not real. The moment these people are registered they have the right to go wherever they want in Europe and we have no right to stop them," said Ivaylo Kalfin.

Bulgaria is part of the Western Balkan refugee route

Under the relocation agreement, Bulgaria will receive the first group of 100-150 refugees from Greece and Italy by the end of the year. "We have made a request for families, with some degree of education if possible, which will enable them to integrate into the job market." According to the Minister, the majority of refugees who are arriving in Bulgaria have no identification documents, not to speak of education diplomas. "In general we can say that 40 percent have little or no education, another 40 percent have secondary education and only 5 percent are university graduates."

As a remark in connection with the fact that some western countries are selecting the refugees they will receive based on educational and other criteria, Ivaylo Kalfin stressed that refugees should arrive with the knowledge that their adoption is a joint effort of the European Union and that they cannot select which country to go to. "Restrictions apply to those European citizens who want to settle in other European countries. Refugees should also be subjected to a policy."

Ivaylo Kalfin called for a review of the list of countries whose citizens can be identified as refugees, the Dublin agreements that are currently totally inapplicable and for an open discussion on the partial violation of the Schengen Agreement. Bulgaria is absolutely ready to join the Schengen area but on the other hand, it believes there is a problem in it. Now we are not in a normal situation. He also said that Europe must take decisions to change the current system, which stimulates traffickers in refugees. "Those who are arriving in Europe have paid several thousand euro to the traffickers, i.e. we are receiving only those who have money to pay this industry. The people who have no money remain in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Logically, those in need should be transported directly from these camps."

The Minister said that the trafficking in refugees to Bulgaria is taking place across the border with Turkey and efforts to fight it are concentrated in this direction. On his part, Ambassador of Bulgaria to Greece Emilia Kraleva pointed out that the second government of SYRIZA has changed the original policy of turning the country into a "refugee corridor," following the common European decision. According to her, the two countries are cooperating in the management of the refugee crisis at the level of participation in the European Union meetings on this topic as well as at the practical level between the relevant departments.

Consul Lyubomir Georgiev explained that a readmission agreement was in force between Bulgaria and Greece and described it as "very effective". In his words, the two countries report on no more than 50-60 people in both directions per month, the majority of migrants trying to enter Greece from Bulgaria.

Tags: PoliticsRefugee crisisCommon European policyBulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ivaylo Kalfin
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