Bulgaria officials slam anti-immigrant nationalist patrols

AFP , Monday 25 Nov 2013

Bulgarian authorities Monday slammed the formation of nightly "civil patrols" by nationalists in high-immigrant areas in the capital.

"The setting up of the so called 'civil patrols' has not been coordinated with the police in any way.... We will not allow any acts by people, trying to impose order on the streets of Sofia by themselves," chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, interior minister Tsvetlin Yovchev and state security chief Vladimir Pisanchev said in a joint statement.

The officials said they had mapped out "concrete measures to oppose... the setting up and functioning of any formation for 'self-defence' and 'civil patrolling'".

Small groups of black-clad men organised by the far-right Bulgarian National Union party have started patrolling around the central mosque in downtown Sofia since last week, vowing to alert police about any incidents.

Local media however warned that the groups aimed to scare off the numerous immigrants living or just hanging out in the area, slamming them as "fascist".

Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member, has been overwhelmed by the arrival this year of almost 10,000 refugees -- 60 percent of them Syrians fleeing civil war -- crossing over illegally from Turkey.

The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in Bulgaria's largely poor population, with a Mediana poll showing Monday that 78 percent of the people said Bulgaria was too impoverished to accept refugees and 20 percent wanted all immigrants expelled.

Over 31 percent of the people polled by the agency said the immigrants contributed to increased crime rates.

"This is not just xenophobia and fear, but fear which gives rise to aggression and hatred and incites to violence," Mediana analyst Kolyo Kolev commented.

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