” Almost 300,000 people have arrived in Bulgaria since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. More than 110,000 of them received temporary protection and shelter from our state. 110,000 people. To get an idea, I will tell you that these are twice as many people as the entire population of the city of Gabrovo and more than the entire Gabrovo region combined.
For three months we have been providing daily, completely unforeseen care for over 110,000 people. Yes, there must be people who received social benefits late. Yes, there are probably some that took time to arrange treatment. Yes, there must have been those who failed to enroll their children in kindergarten. But doesn’t this happen every day to Bulgarians?
Today I stand before you – both Bulgarians and Ukrainians, in front of all people, with full confidence that the team of the National Staff, all regional administrations and local crisis centers, we did more than impossible to provide people fleeing war a safe and warm home, comfort and security. We did absolutely everything so that we do not have to set up tent camps, as in other countries.
We have stated clearly and openly that Bulgaria can no longer afford to support Ukrainian citizens in hotels on the seafront, and we expected to gain understanding. From the very beginning, it was announced that this measure with the hotels is temporary and aims to give them time to feel calm and get on their feet. To our great disappointment, in return we received mass specific and personal desires, which definitely can not be satisfied. And here we are not talking about vulnerable people – they have the least household requirements. That is why our efforts today are focused on them.
But for all other people with temporary protection, I announce: after we did not receive reliable and timely information from you, after you did not inform the mediators and the field teams about your intentions until the last, after the second day buses that do not fill up and trains with empty carriages depart from the stations, and since the last hours even people who are already accommodated in bases are leaving, I announce:
we are terminating the integration plan for the resettlement of refugees in the interior of the country, with which we aimed to meet the needs of the people, and all people who are in hotels and say they have nowhere to go will be temporarily accommodated in buffer centers in Sarafovo and Elhovo.
Until we find out exactly how many people have other options, but want to see if the base is on the beach and if there is air conditioning to go. How many actually know that they are returning to Ukraine, but will sit until the last day on the beach. And how completely they are alone, they have no home, no money and they really need us to take care of them. Until we know exactly how many people really need shelter, we have no choice but to temporarily house everyone in these buffer zones.
From the very beginning and for months now, Ukrainians have been living in such centers en masse in Poland, the Czech Republic, Moldova and other countries. Yes, the conditions in them are basic, but they fully meet the minimum requirements of the directive and this is the solution that we as a country can offer at the moment. Only after we understand the exact number of people we need to shelter in the long run will we continue to do so. Because they all continue to have protection and rights, but they also need to realize that they have responsibilities.
Our empathy remains great and boundless, but our ability to offer much more than a tent and van has been inexplicably sabotaged.
That is why our search for people who really need protection ends today. After all, protection is something that is sought after, not offered. Protection is a right, not an obligation. Therefore, no empty bus or empty car will be allowed to leave.
The development of the situation from that moment on is in the hands of the Ukrainian community in Bulgaria. I strongly urge those of you who do not need shelter to declare it now. Only in this way will we be able to immediately take care of people in real need. For people in real need, we have bases, food, and teams waiting for them.
All people with temporary protection, regardless of whether they give up our humanitarian accommodation program, continue to be protected and they have the right to reside freely in the country, as well as to continue to enjoy all social benefits, have the right to work and receive medical treatment.
I believe that the whole of Bulgaria understands the situation we are in and I hope that, regardless of your beliefs, you will support us in this difficult and unpredictable moment. Because Bulgaria is good and I am proud of it every day! Thank you! “