War refugees from Ukraine are to be moved from Bulgarian hotels on the Black Sea coast to reception centers before the holiday begins, the government in Sofia has announced. The EU member state is currently hosting some 90,000 Ukrainian refugees.
“Bulgaria can no longer afford to receive Ukrainian citizens in hotels on the beach,” Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova said in a video message on Monday (30 May).
The move will begin in the coming days, according to the news agency dpa reported. The tourist season in the Black Sea usually begins in the first half of June. According to OECD data, the tourism sector contributed more than 3% to Bulgaria’s GDP in 2018.
According dpa citing Bulgarian media, only 500 of the approximately 90,000 refugees so far have taken advantage of the opportunity to move from hotels to state-run holiday homes inside the country.
The vast majority would have expressed little interest in being taken by train or bus to other areas. Many refugees were worried about a possible lack of medical care or shops in the sometimes remote holiday resorts, dpa reported.
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Transit country for Ukrainian refugees
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, nearly 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered Bulgaria. But the Member State of the European Union is mainly a country of transit; most of them go to Central Europe.
According to official figures on Monday, dpa reported, 90,365 refugees are currently in Bulgaria. They are accommodated in hotels and privately with friends, relatives and volunteers.
Romania, neighboring Bulgaria to the north, has taken in almost a million war refugees. Besides Romania, the other EU countries that also share a border with Ukraine – Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – have taken in significantly larger numbers of war refugees.
In 2020, Bulgaria was the EU country with the lowest level of GDP per capita, followed by Greece and Croatia.
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Temporary accommodation of migrants in hotels
The practice of accommodating refugees and asylum seekers in hotels is a common practice to deal with a temporary influx until a more permanent housing solution is found.
For example, following a wave of migrants arriving in the Atlantic archipelago in the second half of 2020, thousands of people were accommodated in hotels and other tourist facilities in Gran Canaria and some of the other islands. The migrants were then gradually transferred to a network of camps from December 2020.
Read more: Canary Islands: migrants between a rock and a hard place