BULGARIA (AP) — Bulgarian authorities say they have banned all foreign nationals from visiting or staying in a number of hotels, restaurants and other establishments in the nation of 10 million, a move that has been met with widespread criticism.
The announcement came as Bulgarian President Gjorge Ivanov declared a state of emergency and urged citizens to stay at home or at home alone.
The government has said it will ban foreign visitors to Bulgaria from April 1.
It did not immediately provide a reason for the ban.
The government is taking measures to safeguard public safety and security, Ivanov said Friday.
“We will take measures to protect public safety by limiting foreign visitors and foreigners staying in Bulgarian hotels, as well as by restricting the activities of foreigners, tourists, employees of state entities and other foreign persons in Bulgarian properties,” Ivanov told reporters.
The statement came hours after a Bulgarian court ruled that it had approved a law that bans foreigners from visiting and staying in the country.
The court’s ruling came after Bulgarian Interior Minister Bogdan Bogdanov said the ban was needed because of a “large-scale international crime” in the capital.
The law bans the entry of foreigners from Bulgaria to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Greece, Italy, the United States, the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal.
Bulgarian authorities say the ban is needed because the country is the third-largest recipient of Russian tourists, with some 500,000 people visiting the country each year.
It says the ban will help to protect Bulgarian tourists from threats from criminal organizations.
The ban is aimed at protecting Bulgaria from an increased flow of criminal and extremist groups, which pose a threat to the country’s security and are linked to the activities that led to the deaths of Russian nationals.