Toronto, Canada and Melbourne, Australia (April 28, 2010) - Bulgaria has begun to emulate longtime EU member Greece's practice of harassing or banning "undesirables" from entering their country. This includes anyone who dare proclaim the existence of a Macedonian minority.
On Sunday, April 18, 2010, members of several Macedonian organizations, including Todor Petrov, President of the World Macedonian Congress, and Georgi Donevski, President of the Association of Refugee Children, were on their way to visit OMO Ilinden's traditional commemoration of Jane Sandanski's death but were stopped at the Delchevo border crossing. After a detailed search of their vehicle, the border officials said that one letter on their car registration was illegible, so they were refused entry. The delegation managed to secure a new vehicle and were finally allowed to enter Bulgaria. Shortly afterwards they were stopped by the police, subjected to another search of their vehicle, and fined for not wearing seatbelts. They were told that they had to go to Blagoevgrad and wait for the police chief to "confirm" the fine. By the time the chief appeared, over two hours later, the commemoration was over.
"We are disgusted that the Bulgarian police prevented us from attending this important Macedonian event. What is even worse, is that the European Union allows Bulgaria to get away with such actions", said Todor Petrov.
On Saturday, April 24, 2010, on their way to attend OMO Ilinden PIRIN's Jane Sandanski commemoration on Sunday, a TV Sonce crew consisting of two cameramen and Slavko Mangovski, journalist and MHRMI International Coordinator, and accompanied by a university professor were denied entry. A Vinozhito representative, Dimitri Ioannou, who accompanied the crew was allowed to enter but he refused as a sign of protest.
"Upon arrival at the border it was evident that the police were waiting for us. Without even looking at our passports one of the police took them straight to the commanding officer who immediately appeared and advised us they would perform a "routine check." After some time he reappeared asking for proof of medical insurance, hotel vouchers and official invitation to visit Bulgaria. Since we had none of the above we offered to purchase insurance on the spot and have a friend come to the border and invite us. We were told that they are sorry but all insurance forms are finished and that personal invitation won't do since it has to be certified by the local authorities and notarized. After about 2 hours we were issued a Refusal of Entry at the Border form and had our passports stamped with a cross and the letter E. Under the letter E in the form it was handwritten: no medical insurance, vouchers and invitation. Immediately after that we were told to leave the grounds and return to Macedonia", said Mr. Mangovski.
The next morning several more delegations, including the World Macedonian Congress, the Association of Muslim Macedonians, the Association of Ancient Macedonians, and the Association of Ethnic Macedonians from Aegean Macedonians in Bitola were denied entry with similar excuses. All the activists declared that they will pursue legal complaints to the EU, OSCE and all other relevant authorities.
These incidents follow the harrassment of Georgi Hristov, editor of the Macedonian language newspaper Narodna Volja, on March 22, 2010. At the Delchevo border crossing, leaving and re-entering Bulgaria, Mr. Hristov was held for several hours while six border officials examined his car and belongings.
A joint press conference was held on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 where it was confirmed that this matter will be pursued through the EU, OSCE and UN. A special meeting with the Macedonian government will take place and a demand will be presented for a reciprocal measure towards Bulgarian citizens visiting Macedonia.
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. For more information, please visit www.mhrmi.org, or contact MHRMI at 416-850-7125, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established in 1984 the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) is a non governmental organisation that informs and advocates to governments, international institutions and broader communities about combating discrimination and promoting basic human rights. Our aspiration is to ensure that Macedonian communities and other excluded groups throughout the world are recognised, respected and afforded equitable treatment. For more information please visit www.macedonianhr.org.au, or contact AMHRC at email@example.com or via +61 3 93298960.