The Wages of Fear: Attitudes towards Refugees and Migrants in Bulgaria

    Vanya Ivanova
    Institute of Public Affairs
    European Commission, Europe for Citizens Programme

    The study is the first step of the “Empowering Communities in Europe” project called “Give Me Voice” research and aims to collect and give space to the voices of young people in selected communities to explore how hate speech and propaganda arise on fertile ground of economic and security fears.

    The interviews were conducted in three focus groups in three different regions in Bulgaria – Belene, Harmanli and Sofia, in the period June-July 2017. In one of the three locations, Belene (June 24, 2017), there was no refugee population at the time of the research , and in the other two – Harmanli (June 29, 2017) and Sofia (July 8, 2017), there are. All of them were chosen for specific reasons related to the topic of migration/refugees.

    The study shows that the young people in all three locations have more arguments in line with the general fears expressed and rather weaker arguments in favour of supporting refugees (human approach). The pragmatic approach is also seen as one of the ways how to handle the refugee situation. Public debates, based on facts, are perceived as a possibility to influence and even change more negative opinions. The actual meetings show to be the most direct way to change opinion, as the young people who have had the chance to interact, to talk and work with refugees, were the ones who had the most positive arguments.