The Refugee Challenge: State Policy and Social Attitudes in Bulgaria
The article examines one of the greatest challenges of our times: the migration of large masses of people fleeing wars, political persecution and terrorism; these refugees have become one of the most serious challenges to European countries and governments in the last decade. Specifically, the article analyzes the contemporary national policy of Bulgaria with regard to asylum and refugees, its stages of development since the start of democratic changes in Bulgaria in the early 1990s, through the country’s accession to the EU in 2007, that required the alignment of the national laws with European legislation, and on to the growing influx of refugees along the Bulgarian borders after 2011 (as a result of the war in Syria) and then, almost ten years later, when negative attitudes towards refugees have grown, even though refugees in Bulgaria are not at all numerous. The questions as to the acceptance and integration of refugees into Bulgarian society are examined as an area of intersection between purposeful state policies and social attitudes determining the possibility for a successful implementation of those policies and impacting on the nature and specific features of the refugees’ integration into Bulgarian society. The analysis is based on the results of a national representative survey of the Bulgarian population, conducted in 2020 by a team of scholars from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at BAS, under the project “Refugees in the Representations of Bulgarians: Fears, Understanding, Empathy”, funded by the National Research Fund of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria.