Bulgarian minister stops ambulances from going to Roma homes without safety guarantees

Bulgaria's health minister has suggested that ambulances would not enter Roma neighborhoods where medics have been attacked unless they were backed by leaders of the Roma community or a police escort.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Petar Moskov said 174 of 225 recent attacks on medics had been in predominantly Roma areas. He said that urgent medical aid teams would go to such places only after their safety is ensured.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee described Moskov's words as an "incitement to racial hatred."

Officially, there are 325,000 Roma in Bulgaria constituting 5 percent of the population, but their number is believed to be twice as high. Half of them live below the poverty line and are in desperate need of public health services.