Bulgaria: Dinko Valev, the xenophobic vigilante who forces refugees to stay

April 14, 2016

Dinko Valev, the Bulgarian neo-Nazi vigilante keeping refugees out of Germany … and in Bulgaria.

There is a so-called “Refugee Hunter” called Dinko Valev who has become infamous within Bulgaria and the EU for assaulting and illegally detaining asylum seekers who he finds have entered Bulgaria from the Turkish border.

There are also other far-right groups copying the actions of the “Refugee Hunter” such as the Association for the Protection of Bulgarians. Recently groups of far-right and neo-Nazi organisations have raised Valev to the status of a hero for his “protection” of his homeland.

The far right's love affair with Valev is of course due to their xenophobia and racism and they delight in the persecution of foreigners and asylum seekers (along with other minorities). The far right and neo-Nazis undoubtedly want to stop asylum seekers from entering Bulgaria.

While Valev's actions and those of organisations such as the Association for the Protection of Bulgarians are the sort that the reactionary far right and neo-Nazis would typically praise, there is one question none of the far right seems to have asked — is Valev actually stopping asylum seekers living in Bulgaria?

The answer in short is an absolute “no!”. Valev's actions and the actions of the “citizen border patrols”, although anti-immigrant, are in actual fact contradictory to the goals of the far right and those of Valev himself.

The overwhelming majority of asylum seekers fleeing war are entering Bulgaria only to pass through on their way west. Their destinations are the usual, with most wanting to go to Germany where there is plenty of work available, among other EU states.

They do not want to stay in Bulgaria.

However, according to EU treaties, the first EU member state that an asylum seeker enters, becomes responsible for their asylum claim and for the asylum seeker themself. This means that even if an asylum seeker reaches the western EU member states, if the western states can prove they have entered the EU through another member state they are to be deported back to that first point of entry.

The problem for the western and central EU states is that, although there is little doubt that most asylum seekers entering their territories have come through other EU member states via land borders, it is nevertheless legally difficult for them to prove this.

Furthermore, the central and western EU states must not just prove that the asylum seeker entered the EU first through another EU member state, but must also prove in court and through the asylum seeker agencies, exactly which EU member state the asylum seeker entered first, in order for the asylum seeker to be returned to the first point of entry into the EU.

Germany, for example, without being able to prove that asylum seekers entered the EU through Bulgaria will be unable to deport said asylum seekers back to Bulgaria.

Unless the asylum seekers have been fingerprinted and processed by state authorities thus making them traceable on the state's asylum seeker registry database. Unless, of course, there are civilian “heroes” who are detaining said asylum seekers and handing them over to the state authorities for said processing.

Dinko Valev and anyone like him turning over asylum seekers who are transiting through Bulgaria are not helping to keep asylum seekers out of Bulgaria at all; they are helping to keep them out of western Europe and keep them in Bulgaria.

Turkey is classed an unsafe country and it is getting exponentially worse. With the Turkish government's incursion into Iraq and Syria and ending of the truce between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebel factions and with the Islamic State's war ever more likely to spill over into Turkey, there will only be an increase of asylum seekers who cannot be deported anywhere once they have applied for asylum in Bulgaria.

Thus, the detainment and handing over of transiting asylum seekers to the Bulgarian authorities only leaves said asylum seekers in a limbo between the war zones and economic instability of the East and the EU deportation policy of the West.

Where will these asylum seekers end up? Bulgaria, of course.

As they have been fingerprinted and processed in Bulgaria they automatically become the responsibility of the Bulgarian state and even if they make their way to Western Europe they will be sent back to Bulgaria.

Bulgaria cannot deport these asylum seekers as they are legitimate refugees. Even those who have been deemed to not be eligible for asylum end up being stuck in Bulgaria as the state cannot afford to deport the majority of those who are ordered to leave Bulgaria.

This means that those who have had their asylum application rejected andhave money can buy their own plane ticket to leave Bulgaria, but the most poor of the deportees cannot. Where do the poorest of those ordered to leave Bulgaria end up? Bulgaria, of course. They are banned from legally working, unable to leave Bulgaria voluntarily and the Bulgarian state is too poor and corrupt to pay for the deportations themselves.

As seems to be a trend with the reactionary right wing and neo-Nazis, their policies and tactics only exaggerate and inflate the problems they claim to be solving with their elementary and superficial solutions.

The arbitrary treatment of all the asylum seekers in the most xenophobic and racist fashion is simply pushing the educated and professional layer of asylum seekers to seek asylum elsewhere, while the non-educated and essentially poor asylum seekers get stuck in Bulgaria, not being able to either return from whence they came or continue west.

If the right wing, neo-Nazis, xenophobes and racists do not want asylum seekers in Bulgaria, the best thing they could do would be to help them pass through Bulgaria and continue west as they had planned.

If Dinko Valev and his rabble of supporters really want to reduce the amount of asylum seekers living in Bulgaria they should be driving them to the Serbian, Macedonian and Romanian borders, instead of handing them over to the Bulgarian police and immigration authorities. As usual, the right wing and neo-Nazis are too stupid for their own racism.

Should Dinko Valev get a medal and be elevated as a hero? Yes, but not by the Bulgarian right-wing, but rather by the German and Western European right-wing, as his detainment of asylum seekers is the realisation of the western EU plan to have Bulgaria act as a buffer state, whereby asylum seekers become the responsibility of Bulgaria and not that of the western EU states.

[Reprinted from the website of the Bulgarian Prisoners' Rehabilitation Association. Jock Palfreeman is the BPRA chairperson and is serving a 20-year sentence in Sofia Jail.]

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