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Friday 7, June 2013
There may be no better monument to the hardships faced by asylum-seekers in Bulgaria than the ‘Hotel Ritz’. Looming across the street from the largest reception center for asylum-seekers in the country, the Ritz is the nickname of a derelict building that is currently home to refugees and asylum-seekers without jobs, resources, or accommodation.
The homeless languishing in this building are not exceptions. A new independent study sponsored by the UNHCR reports that refugees and asylum-seekers face many hardships, challenges, and frustrations in their efforts to establish a home and life in Bulgaria.
A large number are unsuccessful, and are now destitute and desperate in the face of state policies that make integration arduous, if not impossible. What are these policies? Many asylum-seekers face indefinite detention. To win their freedom, some provide fake addresses as local homes, only to find that these declarations make them ineligible for further assistance.
The result: those who lack savings are doomed to live on the street or in abandoned buildings like the Ritz.
Asylum-seekers in Bulgaria hail from dozens of countries. So far in 2013, people from Syria (424), Algeria (160), stateless (93), Mali (87) and another 38 countries have sought international protection. Some of these newcomers were oppressed in their homeland, but as the following photo essay reveals, once arriving in Bulgaria, many traded oppression for destitution on the streets of a country that is a home only in name.