Police, fire-setting refugees in Bulgarian camp clash over quarantine policies
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Police detained 200 migrants after they clashed with police at a refugee camp in southern Bulgaria on Thursday, injuring several officers.
District police spokeswoman Nina Nikolova said some 2,000 migrants were involved in the scuffles. Shouting slogans, they allegedly set tires and furniture on fire and threw rocks at police.
Tensions rose again Thursday evening and police used water cannons to disperse the violent crowd. Some 14 officers were injured in the clashes, interior ministry chief of staff Georgi Kostov told reporters. He said that 200 of the rioting migrants were detained and placed in custody.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov was expected to arrive to the scene later in the evening.
The clashes reportedly broke out after migrants complained about the camp being isolated following an alleged outbreak of infectious diseases.
The head of the state refugee agency, Petya Parvanova, said there was no medical reason to quarantine the camp, but that local authorities had sealed it off after local residents protested.
About 3,000 people, mainly from Afghanistan and Syria, are staying at the camp in Harmanli, near the border with Turkey.
Last month, several hundred Afghans staged protests demanding to be allowed to move westwards to Europe.
Despite a wire fence that Bulgaria has erected on its border with Turkey in an attempt to prevent illegal crossing, migrants continue to enter the Balkan country of 7.2 million.
According to official statistics, some 13,000 migrants, most of them from Afghanistan, are currently in Bulgaria.
Harmanli residents have staged protests, demanding the immediate closure of the refugee camp. On Thursday, they received support from dozens of nationalists from nearby regions who arrived in the city calling for an immediate return of the migrants to their home countries.