This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Syrian Refugees Facing Tough Times in Bulgaria

The civil war in Syria seems to be creating a never-ending set of disasters. Anyone can appreciate the desire of Syrians to get away from that war, if they can. But refugees face tough times, almost no matter where they go. The latest story, reported by the New York Times, is from Bulgaria, where there has been a xenophobic backlash to Syrian refugees arriving there by way of Turkey.
The influx of Syrian refugees has sown divisions across the European Union as the refugees add burdens on governments still struggling to emerge from years of recession. But Bulgaria is perhaps the most fragile of all the European Union’s 28 members. Modest as the numbers of refugees are here, the entry of nearly 6,500 Syrians this year has overwhelmed the deeply unpopular coalition government and added a volatile element to the nation’s already unstable politics.
In essence, the presence of the refugees has allowed a nationalist far-right political party to gain political influence. Thus, the refugees are being exploited for political purposes, after having been exploited in other ways:
Syrian refugees, many of whom passed into Bulgaria after paying at least $550 each to people smugglers in Istanbul, say they have no desire to stay here, but European Union rules require that they seek asylum in the country where they are first registered and fingerprinted.
The refugees, who mostly dreamed of getting to Germany or Sweden, say they never expected Europe to be like this. “This country is too poor,” complained Mohammed Hussein, a 24-year-old Syrian who has spent the last six weeks confined to a former military base at Harmanli, a desolate town near Svilengrad. “It is like living in a prison,” he said.
It will almost certainly be an arduous task for these refugees to gain a foothold in Europe, just as it is going to be a big job to rebuild Syria when the time comes.

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