Caretaker government lied about providing food to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees

From the very beginning of its mandate, the caretaker government of President Rumen Radev has shown in a categorical way that it will try to limit the temporary protection of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria.

The caretaker government first needed a full three months from 1 July to 3 October just to re-establish the Temporary Protection Task Force[1], later renamed[2] National Operative Headquarters.

Then, very reluctantly, the Task Force, now the Headquarters, extended until 31 October the Humanitarian Aid Programme for Ukrainian refugees, which had regulated the conditions for their accommodation and feeding. And then it quietly let it expire and probably would not have renewed it if it had not been for the serious media uproar about it by the voluntary and civil organisations helping Ukrainian refugees.

It was only on 16 November 2022 that the caretaker government again extended the Humanitarian Assistance Programme, which however drastically restricted accommodation and completely cancelled any, even minimal, assistance or means of subsistence.

Thus, since mid-November, Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria have remained without state-guaranteed food.

The caretaker government has not bothered to consider whether the refusal to provide food should only affect people who have been in Bulgaria for a long time, and whether at least initial feeding should still be provided to people who entered the country after the massive Russian bombing began in the autumn, fleeing their destroyed towns and homes. Nor did it matter to the caretaker government that refusing to provide food would also affect those refugees with temporary protection who could not be expected to find work to provide for themselves—orphans, unaccompanied children, mothers with babies, elderly pensioners, seriously ill people or people with disabilities or injuries.

At their first meeting with civil society organisations, convened as late as 23 November 2022, representatives of the Interim Government's crisis Headquarters, as well as the meeting's chairmen, Deputy Minister of the Interior Mr. Emil Ganchev and Deputy Director of the Migration Directorate Mr. Marian Dankov, made an explicit promise that from the next day the Headquarters would provide food at least to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees relocated to state and municipal bases. A promise that was witnessed by the representatives of a number of civil and voluntary groups and made public by BHC.

Thirty-seven days have passed since that day. During these days, the caretaker government has adopted several decisions on the Humanitarian Accommodation Programme for Ukrainian Refugees. None of them to this day mentions the word 'food.'

So vulnerable Ukrainian refugees, like vulnerable Bulgarians, are completely abandoned by the state and rely entirely on the compassion and support of our fellow citizens, volunteers and activists. Many Ukrainian refugees welcomed Christmas in Bulgaria hungry. Many of them will welcome the New Year hungry.

We do not know what standards the caretaker government and the National Task Force for Temporary Protection apply to their management decisions. We only know that, on the issue of feeding Ukrainian refugees, they do not conform to normal human notions of mercy. Or honesty.

We call on the caretaker government to take immediate measures to implement the commitments made on 23 November. Otherwise, if the purpose of its inaction is to force Ukrainian refugees to flee from Bulgaria, let it at least have the courage to state it bluntly.

It would be more dignified than letting them starve.

↑[1] Order no. R-213 of 3 October 2022 of the prime minister.

↑[2] Decision of the Ministerial Council no. 963 from 1 December 2022