Bulgaria becomes latest EU country to ban burqas in public spaces

Bulgaria has become the latest EU country to pass a law banning face veils in public.

The country's parliament approved the "burqa ban" law in a move supporters said would bolster security following a wave of terrorist attacks across Europe.

Under the legislation, clothing such as the burqa or niqab which hides the face may not be worn in government offices, schools, cultural institutions and places of public recreation.

Exceptions are allowed for health and professional reasons.

The law, which follows bans on full-face veils in several Bulgarian towns, was pushed through by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, and comes after similar controversial measures in France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Those who flout the law face fines of up to 1,500 levs (£664) and a suspension of social benefits.

A Muslim woman speaks to reporters in France during a demonstration against France's anti-burqa and niqab law. Credit: PA Wire

Krasimir Velchev, a senior lawmaker from the ruling centre-right GERB party, said: "The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive. We made a very good law for the safety of our children."

However, the move was criticised by Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen.

"Women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs," he said.

"Legitimate security concerns can be met with targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined, high-risk locations and not through a blanket discriminatory ban such as this."

The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms refused to take part in the vote, and said the burqa ban would incite ethnic and religious intolerance.