UN commissioner criticizes Bulgaria on refugee policies
Government not doing enough to challenge 'alarming trends,' says UN's human rights chief
By Diyar Guldogan
The UN high commissioner for human rights raised concern Thursday about Bulgaria's policies and practices relating to migrants and refugees.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein’s remarks came in a written statement after the second of two visits to Bulgaria by his staff in the past eight months.
He said there were "some positive" developments since the initial visit by the UN Human Rights Office staff last November, adding that the most pressing issue remains the detention of those who enter the country via nontraditional means.
“Even worse, they may also be prosecuted and jailed - for a year or even more - if they try to leave the country. The act of leaving the country is criminalized in spite of the right of everyone, under international law, to leave a country, including their own," he said.
As a result, those who do not fall into the refugee category by definition but have valid reason for fleeing their home countries are left in limbo, according to al-Hussein. “This is clearly inhumane and unacceptable."
Bulgarian public officials have made "frequent”, “aggressively" anti-migrant statements, he said, and it is “particularly disturbing to see important and influential public figures expressing support for illegal armed vigilante groups who have been brazenly hunting down migrants along parts of the border between Bulgaria and Turkey,” he added.
“Rising xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism are among the most worrying threats to human rights in Europe today,” according to al-Hussein.
He also urged the Bulgarian government to do enough to challenge the "alarming trends".
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