Tech & Rights

Bulgarian Ambulances Will Enter Roma Neighborhoods Only after Safety Is Guaranteed

The health minister of Bulgaria has said that ambulances will visit Roma neighborhoods only after the safety of the medical technicians can be guaranteed, a decision civil society condemns and considers racist.

by Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Roma neighborhoods notorious for attacks on doctors will now receive emergency medical services only after an agreement with local community leaders or in the presence of police. That's what Bulgarian Health Minister Petar Moskov stated in an interview for Nova TV. The National Association of Emergency Workers also supports the measure. It is not yet clear how it will be implemented in order to ensure assistance to those who suffer. Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov said earlier on Bulgarian National Television that such a measure is hardly feasible, because it would mean extra funding and recruitment of extra police officers.

"Social inequality does not give special rights," said Minister Moskov, who gave evidence yesterday that 174 out of 227 attacks on emergency personnel have taken place in Roma neighborhoods. He said that emergency medical teams would not respond to any 112 phone calls until their security is guaranteed.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee condemns (in Bulgarian) the racist threat to refuse life-saving healthcare to Roma people. Margarita Ilieva, the BHC legal defense program director, said: "Criminal liability in Bulgaria is individual and not collective. As it applies only to those who performed the criminal act, authorities cannot arbitrarily deprive people of life-saving health care. Only Bulgarian courts can determine criminal liability and impose punishments after a fair trial and according to the law. It is the same for all Bulgarian citizens regardless of their ethnic origin."

BHC thinks that "punishing a blamed ethnic minority by threatening their access to public health is no different than the Nazi's way of solving issues, and that such thoughts should have been buried with the corpse of Adolf Hitler."

Margarita Ilieva also added that "a minister describing human beings as 'the ones who have chosen to live and behave like brutes and deserve to be treated like ones' and 'a population that understands less than wild animals' only shows the misery of his legal awareness and his unforgivable disrespect to Bulgarian citizens."