There has been a huge rise in asylum seekers in Bulgaria as a direct result of instability in North Africa and the Middle East. They use Bulgaria as a land entry into the European Union. The Bulgarian tabloid press has coined the phrase “wave”, which has now entered political and popular language. In 2009, the newly-elected government greatly changed the way the law was interpreted and enforced. Before 2010, there was not a single “illegal immigrant” convicted and jailed in the criminal prisons.
The Bulgarian Prisoners Rights Association (BPRA) has made progress in its attempts to bring due process into Bulgaria's parole laws. Founded in 2012, the BPRA has been represented on a Ministry of Justice working group on prison reform since May. Their representative is Valio Ivanov, who was released from Sofia Central Prison in February after serving 22 years — 20 in solitary confinement. Ivanov succeeded in getting the working group to recommend changes in parole laws, BPRA chairperson Jock Palfreeman told Green Left Weekly.
The Bulgarian Prisoners' Rehabilitation Association (BPRA) won a victory on May 22 when it was invited to send a representative to a Ministry of Justice working group on prison reform. The BPRA was founded in 2012 by Jock Palfreeman, an Australian anti-racist activist serving a 20-year sentence in Sofia central prison after he was framed for murdering a neo-Nazi. It is the first inmate-run prisoners' rights group in Bulgaria's history.
More than six years ago, 21-year-old Australian backpacker Jock Palfreeman was walking home with friends after a night out in Sofia, Bulgaria, when he saw a group of 15 men attacking two others. The next morning he was in a police cell — accused of “unprovoked murder” and “hooliganism”. Held without bail, he was convicted two years later and sentenced to 20 years jail.
Jock Palfreeman is serving a 20-year sentence for murder in Sofia Central Prison, Bulgaria. His conviction followed a trumped-up trial in a dysfunctional state where the local gangsters known as mutri hold sway, and hatred of Roma is a national pastime for many. Palfreeman was alleged to have killed Andrei Monov in Sofia in December 2007 while trying to defend two Roma men. Monov was the son of a Bulgarian MP who wants Jock to spend the rest of his life in jail.
A police raid on a Roma settlement outside the rural town of Farsala in central Greece on October 16 made worldwide headlines. The raid was nothing unusual but, as Associated Press said on October 22, “one of dozens of raids they have carried out on Roma camps in the past few weeks in a crackdown on drug smuggling and burglary gangs”. For police, politicians and media in Europe, the link between Roma (or “Gypsies” to use the racist term favoured by the British press) and crime is self-evident.
Every Parent's Nightmare By Belinda Hawkins Allen & Unwin, 2013 www.everyparentsnightmare.com Jock Palfreeman, an Australian man sentenced to 20 years in jail in Bulgaria for murder in a deeply flawed trial, had his request to be transferred to an Australian jail turned down on July 10. Belinda Hawkins' book, Every Parent's Nightmare, brings to life the tragic story of Palfreeman, whose fearless commitment to human rights led to a 20-year sentence in Bulgaria.
Bulgarians voted for a new parliament on May 9, two months ahead of schedule. It came after mass protests against poverty and economic disadvantage forced the centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) government to resign. The elections, however, reflected a polarised political landscape and one devoid of left forces. GERB received most votes with 30.71% (97 seats). The second-largest party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party won 27.02% (84 seats). The 2005-09 BSP government was marked by neoliberal policies and corruption scandals.
“I’m in Villawood!” Jock Palfreeman exclaimed, with the cheerful exuberance he displayed throughout an interview conducted through glass and wire-mesh partitions in the gloomy surroundings of the visiting room of Sofia central prison. He told Green Left Weekly that it was the plight of refugees detained in Sydney's Villawood detention centre that first radicalised him. His first protest, as a high school student in Sydney, was a blockade of the offices of Villawood’s then operator Australasian Correctional Management on May Day in 2002.
Quebec’s student movement has claimed a victory with the toppling of the right-wing Liberal government in the September 4 election. The opposition Parti Quebecois (PQ) looks set to form government, winning the most seats ahead of the right-wing Liberal Party who had governed for the past nine years. Quebec's largest pro-independence party, the PQ has, in government, also implemented neoliberal policies.