February 12, 2014

Harmanli: Trapped on the Fringe of Freedom

ICCL Human Rights Film Award & Radharc award winning short documentary film that looks at life inside Bulgaria’s only locked Syrian Refugee Camp

The conditions in Harmanli refugee camp are dire. Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, is ill-equipped to provide shelter to the thousands of Syrians who crossed over from Turkey. Inside Harmanli, they wait months to be processed, and are locked in the camp at all times.

Over 1,000 refugees, most of whom paid smugglers to secure their passage out of Syria through Turkey and into Bulgaria, live at the decrepit former military barracks of Harmanli as they await news of their refugee-application status. More than 250 of these Syrians are children.

Refugees were initially housed in tents, many of which flooded with freezing water when the first of Bulgaria’s winter snow began to melt in December, but the tents have been replaced by small prefabs. But conditions are still dire.

Although conditions may be improving in Harmanli, xenophobic sentiment in Bulgaria is on the increase. Asylum seekers regularly experience verbal abuse on the streets near refugee camps, and the far-right party in government is gaining popularity.

Under this sad picture, context must be drawn: while Bulgaria is now erecting a 32km fence along its border with Turkey due to the influx of asylum seekers, the rest of the EU has turned a blind eye to the situation.

This film was made to highlight the shameful fact that while Bulgaria has taken in 10,000 refugees, Ireland has pledged to take in only 90.

Harmanli: Trapped on the Fringe of Freedom won the Grand Prize at the ICCL Human Rights Film Award and The Radharc Digital Media Award 2014.