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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
THRACIAN REFUGEES IN HASKOVO AND
SVILENGRAD: POLICIES FOR ACCOMMODATING
MIGRANT FLOWS IN URBAN SPACE
1
Lina Gergova
The towns of Haskovo and Svilengrad are emblematic places with regard to accepting
refugees fromEasternThrace.Therehasbeen little research, however, into theprocessof integrating
migrant flows in these two towns, as there has been little research into the issue with regard to
settlements in Bulgaria in general.
2
Along these lines, the focus of research usually falls on the
experience, hardships, and pathways of the refugees themselves. Such a focus is justified bearing
in mind the deep crisis accompanying these processes. It is not without considerable tensions
that the local communities – citizens, municipal and state authorities – deal with these problems.
Here I will discuss some tendencies in the policies for inclusion of refugee flows in urban space,
more specifically, policies that involve integrating or differentiating, social support and economic
interaction. In other words, the present text is concerned not so much with studying migrant
flows, but with analyzing the response of local communities and society to those flows.
Preliminary observations
Migrant flows, irrespective of whether they comprise political refugees, internal or labour
migration, cultural or othermigration, change the environment inwhich they appear. This happens
not only with regard to demographics, i.e. their number, but also in terms of social, professional,
educational, etc. structure. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to conduct research along the lines
of such qualitative changes in the past, since the statistics from the first half of the 20th century
in Bulgaria take into account mostly the profession of the head of the family and do not include
further details, especially with respect to refugees who are interviewed in the respectivemigration
depots and then in the process of land allocation for them. The internal stratification of themigrant
flow is even further erased in view of the application of uniform and unifying policies for their
settlement. In fact, the well-to-do among them, the craftsmen and tradesmen, the so-called“elite”
migrants (Ward, Jenkins 1984: 95) are not included in any programmes – they are mostly left to
manage on their own and data about them is scarce at best. It is in the state administration’s
interest not to declare refugees professionals – it does not want them for a host of reasons, among
which lie foreign policy interests related to the support of Bulgarian population in the border
1 The present study is a result from research conducted within the project “Resettlers and migrants on the two
sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border: heritage, identity, intercultural interactions”, led by IEFSEM – BAS and supported
by the National Science Fund at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science. It is an updated and enriched version of
“Migrations, migrant communities and urban development in the 20
th
century (Examples from Haskovo)”, published
in “Migrations on both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border: heritage, identities, intercultural interactions”, edited by
V. Ganeva-Raycheva, M. Elchinova, M. Zlatkova, N. Vukov, Sofia: IEFSEM – BAS, 2012.
2 More on the influence of migrant flows on urban development see in Neymarc 1998.