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The Daily Star
SATURDAY, 19 APR 2014
10:49 PM Beirut time
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Shelter emergency in Bulgaria
Agence France Presse
Children wait to receive aid distributed by the Bulgarian Red Cross and the Medical University of Sofia at the recently opened Vrazhdebna refugee shelter in Sofia on December 3, 2013.  (AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV)
Children wait to receive aid distributed by the Bulgarian Red Cross and the Medical University of Sofia at the recently opened Vrazhdebna refugee shelter in Sofia on December 3, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV)
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SOFIA: The U.N. refugee agency chief for Europe urged Bulgaria Tuesday to respond swiftly to what he called a human emergency in shelters struggling with an influx of Syrians.

“It is a human emergency for the people in these centers ... There will be no Christmas for them. Things need to happen in the next couple of weeks,” Vincent Cochetel of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told journalists in Sofia. “The situation is critical ... The conditions are sub-standard but we are here to help.”

The EU’s poorest country has found itself completely unprepared to handle an influx of over 11,100 refugees – many of them Syrians fleeing civil war at home – crossing from Turkey this year. The UNHCR is distributing one hot meal per day in the biggest and most crowded camp – in Harmanli in the south-east – where hundreds of Syrian and Afghan refugees lived crammed in metal containers and tents at the start of winter.

Cochetel also criticized Bulgaria’s plans to erect a 33 km fence on the Turkish border, saying this would only “increase the price for people going through the border.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 8.
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