Bulgaria: Stories from  the Voenna Rampa camp
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Beginning in June 2013, Bulgaria was hit by a large wave of Syrian refugees seeking to gain entry into the EU via Turkey. As one of the poorest countries in the European Union, Bulgaria's immigration authorities were ill-prepared and severely 
underfunded to cope with the demand. 

Refugee camps were soon overcrowded and new ones were set up in abandoned schools and military barracks. 

Today, poor living conditions are an ongoing issue in virtually all refugee camps throughout the country. The government warns of a looming humanitarian crisis should the refugee wave persist.


As they wait to be officially recognized as refugees by the authorities, the Syrians dream of starting over, either in Bulgaria or elsewhere in the EU. They ask for education, work and shelter. 

Here are their stories. 

"Everybody is leaving Syria."
"No one's staying there. 

My mother and father are in the Emirates. One of my brothers went to Austria, the other one to Germany. Now he'll go to Sweden. They're okay, because they're not in Syria. 

One of my brothers is still in Syria with his family, but he says it's horrible there now. Jabhat al Nusra is more and more present. They're fighting there, there's no food, there's nothing. It's not safe. People say they're not letting their children out because they'll be kidnapped for ransom. We were surprised when we came to Bulgaria. 

You can see how we're living here. It's not safe for the baby. It's not clean, they don't have medicine for him, there's no doctors....but what can we do?"  
“I thought Bulgarians had work. I’m looking for a job, but don’t have documents. I've been in Bulgaria now for six months.

I came to Bulgaria with 200 euros - in order to get to Germany I would need 5000. I will probably go to Cyprus."
Naram, a Syrian Kurd, readily offers her devastating story. 

Her home destroyed, husband kidnapped and daughter
threatened with the same fate, she fled. Now she hopes to go to Sweden and reunite her family. 

We also met a young boy, roller skating through the hallways, who showed us the tiny space he shares with his 

“Bulgaria… Big problem,” he says.  
Click above to hear interview 
 "I was a painter but they came looking for me to join Bashar's army, to be one of his soldiers.
Bashar wanted to give us guns 
for us to kill honest people.

I refused and I fled."


"When I first came to Bulgaria, I wanted to stay here. But then I realized what the situation was really like here. It's miserable! I've been here for five months and all I got was this temporary residence card, the blue card. My family is still in Syria but there's no way I'd have them come to Bulgaria. 

They'd better die there than come here! The system is not working! I'd rather be in any country that respects human rights. Any country out there. I know Germany accepts refugees, so I'd go there. I have close friends there who will help me find a job."

 "People think that if they go to Germany, they’ll be in a five-star hotel. But it’s not true… 

If we want to die, we want to die in Syria.”
At the Bulgarian/Turkish border, security has been significantly tightened with the deployment of 1200 police officers and border patrols to the city of Elhovo, the main crossing area from Turkey into Bulgaria for asylum seekers. 

Barbed wire is being erected along the border, effectively blocking access to refugees without passports.

Text, video, photos and audio by: Damian Vodenitcharov 

Design: Ilan Moss