3,000 migrants living in a camp in Bulgaria are on lockdown after reports that serious infectious diseases have been recorded among the group.
The camp, known as the Harmanli facility, is located near the Bulgarian border with Turkey and has been in operation for a number of years. Of the 3,000 current residents, most of whom are looking to move on to Western Europe, 128 of them have been diagnosed with serious illnesses from skin diseases to viral infections and even small pox, reports Die Welt.
News agencies in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia are calling the lock down a quarantine and raise concerns of a potential epidemic within the camp; those on the ground deny that the diseases are spreading rapidly throughout the population.
Many of the migrants who travelled through Turkey to Bulgaria come from Syria where a strain of a flesh-eating skin disease had become rampant; though there are no reports of it in the camp, authorities remain cautious.
The quarantine was initiated in reaction to a protest by nationalists who raised concerns that many of the migrants were spreading diseases and harassing locals in the area. Protests were held by nationalists around the country in recent weeks including in Sofia, Jambol, and the Black Sea resort town of Varna.
As the Balkans and other nations have secured their external borders against new waves of migrants, Bulgaria has become the last stop for many who come illegally from Turkey and the Middle East. The European Union (EU) reception centres for migrants in Bulgaria have become totally full as an estimated 13,000 are currently stranded in the country.
After the election of new Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and the resignation of the centre-right government under now-former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, its is thought the country may adopt a more independent migrant policy.
Bulgaria is one of the poorest nations within the EU and at the forefront of the migrant crisis. Earlier this summer, the government demanded €160 million to secure its border with Turkey. Despite the lack of funding, some Bulgarian citizens have taken it upon themselves to patrol the border.
One such man is Hristo Atanasov who heads the “organisation for the protection of Bulgarian citizens.” The group, and others like them, patrol the borders in their spare time looking for migrants and turn them over to police when apprehended. The patrol insists they have had great success with what they term “healthy walks” along the border.
* * *