Solidarity with Harmanli 21


2nd of June marked the week of local actions in solidarity with Harmanli 21. A demonstration in front of the Migration Office was organized calling for justice and freedom for the 21 accused migrants hold responsible for the riot that broke out in the Registration Reception Center (RRC) of Harmanli, Bulgaria back in November 2016.

On 5th of June a second hearing is scheduled before the Administrative court. The Afghani migrant group on trial is blamed for property destruction, hooliganism and  resistance to authorities. There are 4 minors among the 21 individuals. The first hearing was on 24th of April this year and was postponed because only 10 of the accused were present. Questions like “Have the other 11 people been deported”, “What is the reason to keep 4 minors in prolonged detention”, and “Why 21 individuals should be kept responsible for state neglect” persist in vague.
The 21 are in detention since November 2016 because they were given the so-called compulsory administrative measures for accommodation in special homes for temporary accommodation which in Bulgaria are either Busmantsi or Ljubimets. By principle, these measures are issued by the Migration Officer thanks to the Law on Foreigners which allows it in special cases even for accompanied minors. Therefore, what have happened is an instant shift in the status of those people turned into foreigners from asylum seekers from today to tomorrow. In total, 400 people were taken out from Harmanli few days after the riot. Some of them deported back, others put in detention.
Immediately after the riot, reports on brutal police violence were published. Discussions on eventual investigation of some police officers is kept in silence and pulled out of the public eyes. As a result from this cruelty 15-year-old boy was in coma and in danger of his life.
Besides, the public debate around the living conditions in the reception or detention centers is shout down due to massive infrastructure corruption. This year the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) was awarded with the highest score on maintenance and renovation of its units. In 2017 alone, SAR was granted 645 414,00 leva by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Despite, the residents of the asylum centers continue living in misery.  By all means, those conditions should be regarded as the factors that contributed to the scabies epidemic, the widespread of bedbugs, roaches, rats, etc. In addition, the RRC Harmanli buildings used to be a military base complex that later on was turned into a living place blurred with plasterboard. The situation at the time of the riot was crisis: full camp capacity, i.e. 3000 people, many of them sleeping on floors without mattresses, left without access to hot water, medical help, etc.
No doubt the crisis situation in a south eastern state was difficult to cope with but it could have been managed properly, which is not the case. Thus, the responsibility of the riot must be shared not only among the accused individuals but also among the institutions dealing with migration.
In October, a month before the riot, one of the biggest protests against the refugees was held. Angel Djambazki (deputy chairman of VMRO – Bulgarian national movement), Krasimir Karakachanov (the chairman of VMRO – Bulgarian national movement and current Defense Minister) and Magdalena Tasheva (journalist of the newspaper “Ataka” or transl. “Attack” which is the bulletin of the political party Ataka, left nationalism, euroscepticism, part of the government under the name of United patriots) together with local structures of the United Patriots were present. The protest demanded the closure of the RRC Harmanli and to be guarded by the Ministry of interior instead of a security company.
26781962_1814291185248132_933618164_oAfter the riot, the Transit center of Pastrogor is in “transit” from open to closed center. The Rules of Procedure of SAR, Chapter 2, Section 1, art. 18 allow the alteration: “[The chairman of SAR] may designate separate closed premises to the territorial units of the State agency for refugees” (enforced on 09.09.2016). In parallel with the closure of Pastrogor, another building project was initiated – an entire building within the premises of RRC Harmanli is soon to be functioned as a closed camp for those who are in breach of the Internal rules of the RRC. That idea appeared to some extend as a compromise between the demand for closing the RRC by the nationalists and the locals, and the legal open frame of the camp.
Spread the word. SOLIDARITY, JUSTICE AND FREEDOM of the 21 accused migrants. The week of local actions is from 28th of May until the day of the second hearing 5th of July. Inform your local societies.