Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Help Arevik: innocent, pregnant, imprisoned

Arevik with her beloved David (photo copied from Svetla Encheva's blog).

I know Arevik's story from Bulgarian bloggers Svetla Encheva (here and here) and Lyd (here and here).

Briefly, Arevik Shmavonyan is a young Armenian woman. 5 years ago, she met on Skype David Arutyunyan, a young man of Armenian origin living in the city of Montana, Bulgaria. They fell in love and about 3 months ago Arevik came to Bulgaria to unite with her beloved. They could not marry because Bulgarian bureaucracy refused to clear their paperwork, but started living together. After Arevik's 1-month visa expired, she obtained a permission to remain for additional 14 days. However, despite this permission she was sent to the infamous detention facility in the Sofia district of Busmanci, where refugees and candidate immigrants are kept indefinitely without clear reasons (I have blogged about this facility in my earlier post Prison by any other name).
In Busmanci, Arevik found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy is problematic, causing cyclic vomiting and severe eating and sleeping problems. Arevik has been in Busmanci already for one month, and for this time has been taken twice to hospital unconscious. Nevertheless, she is still kept there, in a room with about 10 other women and without adequate care. Although Arevik has done nothing wrong, her release is not in sight, and her life is in peril as well as the life of her unborn child.
I appeal to you to try to help Arevik. Svetla Encheva in her April 18 post gives a beautiful model letter citing appropriate quotes from Bulgarian and European legislature, as well as the addresses of the Montana Police Department whose orders have led to Arevik's imprisonment. I shall not translate the letter - knowing the English proficiency of our average law enforcer, I think a short note comprised of simple words would do a better job. In fact, I think that the police will be more impressed by the mere obtaining of messages from abroad written in English than by their text.
Here are two e-mail addresses of the Montana Police Department: rdvrmon@net-surf.net, police@net-surf.net. You can also fill this form. At the top line, you must select "MBP - област Монтана" (Montana Police Department). The lines below are, respectively, for your first name, family name, e-mail, postal address, subject of your message and then comes the field for the text of your message. You are also advised to send a paper letter at the following address:

Comissar Valeri Dimitrov
Police Department - Montana
2 Aleksander Stamboliiski Blvd
BG-3400 Montana

I also advise you to turn to the Ministry of Interior in the capital Sofia. Its contact form is here. The lines are (from top) for your first name, family name, address, telephone, e-mail and below is the field for the text of the message. The postal address is as follows:

Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Ministry of Interior
29, 6th of September Street
BG-1000 Sofia


Mr. Wayne said...

Has anyone contacted the US embassy or the State Department?

Any further developments?

Maya M said...

The Administrative Court must issue a decision on the case, but I do not know when. If Arevik is deported to Armenia, she will have a 5-year ban to enter Bulgaria, because she has overstayed her visa.
Channel TV7 is giving publicity to the case, I hope this will help.
I do not know whether the US authorities are informed, and I am not sure that it would be a good idea for them to intervene. I remember that in 1999, Bulgaria was asked by US to accept some Kosovar refugees but refused. I think that it is up to EU institutions to press - such pressure has been useful in earlier cases. From the USA, I think a campaign by NGOs such as human rights organizations or Armenian-American societies would have better effect than institutional actions.

Anonymous said...

So what kind of text should we be putting into our letters -- what should we be urging the Ministry/police to do - release her back to Armenia, extend her visa in Bulgaria..? Please give us more information on what the letters should say/what would be most helpful to Arevi.


Anonymous said...

I am now translating a letter that we are bombarding the police department with.

Anonymous said...

Here's the letter which we, in Bulgaria are sending. I translated it ASAP, so my translation might not be perfect.
Commissioner Valeri Dimitrov
Director of District Directorate of
the Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs - Montana town

Dear Commissioner Dimitrov,

As a result of an order issued by the police department - Montana, the Armenian citizen, Arevik Shmavonyan, has been residing in the Special Home for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners - Busmanci for more than a month. You know that now Arevik is pregnant in the third month and in very bad health, unable to eat or sleep, having constant nausea and vomiting. She was taken to hospital twice because she was unconscious. Despite her condition, she remains locked up in the "home" in Busmanci, in a room with a dozen women, without adequate medical, or any other, care.

Commissioner Dimitrov, I would not doubt your good faith. Perhaps you have decided that in this way you adhere to the law. But sticking to some points of law and disregarding the others does not comply with the law. Commissioner Dimitrov, you know that the international law has priority over the Bulgarian law.

According to the Directive 2008/115/EC, involuntary detention is a last measure, which applies when the lighter measures have already been applied. Arevik has not committed a crime, she is not a threat to national security, and she has not attempted to hide. Moreover, the family of her boyfriend has provided support and an address of residence for her, and the father of her boyfriend has signed a notarized statement that he is her guarantee. What, then, requires her detention? And yet, at a time when she was allowed to move freely in the country for two weeks by the Agency for Refugees?

This is not all - according to a decision of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg of 30.11.2009, Case C-357/09 PPU (case "Said Kadzoev”) the forced accommodation of foreigners may be with the sole purpose of deportation. Arevik cannot be deported, for several reasons:

- Article 67, paragraph 1 of the Law for the Asylum and the Refugees clearly shows that until entering into force of a court decision the procedure for deportation cannot be applied.

- Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which Bulgaria is a signatory, states, "No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Keeping locked up and without access to medical care of a pregnant woman in a serious health condition is clearly inhuman treatment, and punishment. Moreover, this is degrading.

- Deportation of Arevik at this moment would also be a violation of Article 3 of the ECHR - it would be torture if she is forced to travel in this severe condition.

- Article 8 of the ECHR and Article 5, paragraph 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria defend the right to respect for private and family life. Technically, Arevik cannot marry the father of her child, as he has no identity documents, but her forced separation from him would grossly violate her right to private life. And to family life, as she has had a relationship with David Arutyunyan, the father of her child, for five years, and since she came to Bulgaria, she has lived with him on cohabitation. Looking ahead, deportation would infringe also the rights of the child, because he/she will be forcedly separated from his father.

Commissioner Dimitrov, from the website of the police department - Montana I learned that you are a father of two children. Please, as a father, do not jeopardize two lives – those of Arevik Shmavonyan and of her unborn child.

For the above reasons, I appeal to you to enforce the law, by immediately issuing an order for postponement of the deportation and release of Arevik Shmavonyan from the Special Home for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners - Busmanci.


Anonymous said...

If you find the idea of sending letters good, feel free to copy this text and sign it with your name, or modify it according to your own taste. You can copy and paste this letter in the following form: http://www.montana.mvr.bg/contactus.htm; or use the following e-mail addresses: rdvrmon@net-surf.net and police@net-surf.net. Below you can see the address of the Police Department in Montana and their telephone number (if you want to ask them personally why Arevik is held in Busmanci):

District Directorate “Police”- Montana
2 Alexander Stamboliyski Blvd.
3400 Montana

tel: +359 96 396 396