Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bulgarian authorities outlaw innocent immigrant

In my April 20 post, I wrote about candidate immigrant Arevik who came from Armenia to Bulgaria to unite with her boyfriend David but ended up imprisoned in the Busmanci detention facility. Arevik has been there already for 2 months, about to complete the crucial 1st trimester of her pregnancy. The personnel reportedly treats her well, but conditions are not suitable for a woman with a difficult pregnancy, and the mere fact of being imprisoned has its toll. This post will be about David Arutyunyan, Arevik's beloved and father of their unplanned but wanted and cherished baby. It is based mostly on Lyd's May 13 post and this post by David himself in a Bulgarian law forum, but the information is confirmed by other numerous sources.
Some readers coming from traditional cultures with strict views on family may say that David and Arevik are irresponsible people because they have conceived a child without being married. I wish to clarify immediately that they wish very much to marry but cannot because David has no identity papers, and in the 21st century it is impossible to marry without such papers. It is also impossible to study, work, or have property. By refusing to issue him ID papers, Bulgarian state (with the help of Armenian state) has made him a non-person.
When somebody is in such a difficult situation, people tend to think that he is to be blamed for it, that he has made something wrong. David, now 24, was only 6 when his family moved from Armenia to Bulgaria. They wished to remain but had difficulties because the residence fee of 1000 lv. per person was too high for them. They protested and even made a hunger strike. I think they were not right - after they were not refugees but candidate immigrants, they had to pay what Bulgarian law prescribed without grumbling or look for another country offering better conditions. Anyway, even if the actions of David's parents had annoyed Bulgarian authorities, no civilized government would revenge against a young child for his parents's deeds.
David went to primary school, which is mandatory under Bulgarian law. When he was 14, Bulgarian authorities finally allowed his family to obtain Bulgarian ID papers, provided that Armenian authorities would also do their part of the paperwork and give them a go-ahead. So David's parents obtained ID documents for themselves and for their daughter (David's sister). However, Armenian authorities refused to give a go-ahead for David because, according to them, he had to return to Armenia to serve 3 years in the army. David of course did not wish to return to a country which was just a vague memory to him. Meanwhile, he was denied permission to study in secondary school. Secondary education is not mandatory in Bulgaria and school authorities said that they "did not know" who David was. (Bulgarian citizens first obtain ID card at that age, 14. In my post about Busmanci, a young candidate immigrant from Nigeria named Olatodun Ibitui is mentioned. He is almost in the same situation as David, having lived in Bulgaria since age 5 but not allowed to study in secondary school. Now he is job-seeking but, despite being very intelligent, he will have giant difficulties. Labour market in present-day Bulgaria kicks back people without high school diplomas.)
To this day, David is living outlawed, his only ID paper being his Armenian birth certificate. He cannot obtain a work permit, so he just helps his parents in their family business. Several times per year, David is subpoenated to the police department in his town of Montana. They tell him that he is living here illegally and must leave his family's home and Bulgaria. They are also consistently trying to obtain a deportation order for him.
On May 5, David was ordered to go to the police department again. Natasha Filipova, head of the local Migration service of the police, gave him to sign a document in Armenian. David refused to sign a text written in a language he does not speak. When his parents came to translate the document, it turned out to be an application by David to be allowed to go to Armenia. The Armenian ambassador declared that this document had not been prepared by the Embassy. Apparently some bright head at the Montana police department has written it and got it translated to Armenian at taxpayers' expense in order to press David to "request" his own deportation.
In an April 29 Mediapool article by Irina Nedeva titled Arevik and David - a love story between Montana, Erevan and Busmanci, the head of the Young Armenians' Charity Union Victor Baramov is quoted to say that his organization has many other examples of people without a legal status in Bulgaria despite having lived here for 20 or more years.
Our domestic civil society is weak and is only now awakening to this problem; but where are the EU institutions and international human rights organizations looking?
If you want to tell our Ministry of Interior and the Montana Police Department what you think about their treatment of David Arutyunyan, their contact details are given in my previous post Help Arevik - innocent, pregnant, imprisoned.

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