What are the institutions and organizations that work with refugees in Bulgaria? How can citizens of third countries more easily navigate among the many units and directorates in our country? Who can refugees turn to when they want to learn Bulgarian, look for housing or find a job?
Answers to all these questions were sought by the Center for Sustainable Communities Development (CSCD) together with the Bulgarian School of Politics "Dimitar Panitsa" (BSP).
For this purpose, a Roadmap was prepared for working with institutions useful for the sustainable integration of refugees in Bulgaria. The document will serve the newly formed National Assembly of Refugees (NAR), whose team, on the one hand, will represent the interests and needs of refugees in our country in front of a number of institutions, and on the other hand, will assist refugees in solving their problems in the process of their integration in the Bulgarian society.
What is a road map?
Institutional mapping is concerned with understanding the existing distribution of power. In the case of refugees and their integration into Bulgarian society, many forms of power can be used by stakeholders to influence the outcome of the decision-making process, including for example threat, information or disinformation, emotional claims and political influence.
Institutional mapping focuses on the key actors, their interactions, where power lies, who has the ability to influence decisions and who makes decisions, and also looks at their source of funding and the opportunities they offer to solve the problem.
The team's aspiration is for the Roadmap to become a guide for NAR's action and to discover various opportunities for the integration of refugees and their dignified residence on the territory of our country.
And here's what the analysis says:
Among the identified international organizations that take care of the rights of refugees in Bulgaria are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration.
Relatively more are state bodies and public institutions that are responsible for working with refugees. Among them are the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a number of specialized directorates. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy through the Social Assistance Agency under the conditions for Bulgarian citizens provides access to:
- social services;
- social benefits;
- programs and measures for the protection of children.
The Employment Agency provides:
- registration as jobseekers in "Labor Bureau" directorates;
- information and employment mediation;
- inclusion in training and employment programs and measures.
The Ministry of Justice has a Citizenship Council, which includes representatives of all competent ministries and departments and gives opinions on applications and proposals related to Bulgarian citizenship.
Other responsible institutions are the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the State Agency for Refugees, the State Agency for Child Protection, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Health, the Commission for Protection from Discrimination, as well as the National Statistical Institute.
Of course, we also have institutions with partial competence, such as municipalities. The local authorities bear responsibilities for the initiation and implementation of horizontal policies and measures for social inclusion and realization of the persons settled on their territory who have received international protection.
Institutions with partial competence in the field of migration, asylum and integration may also include the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works.
Undoubtedly extremely useful and necessary for the refugees in Bulgaria are the civil society structures that provide reliable support of all kinds. One of the well-known organizations is the Bulgarian Council for Refugees and Migrants, which carries out advocacy activities at the municipal level to promote the integration of persons granted international protection in the municipalities. Other organizations that refugees can turn to are Bulgarian Red Cross, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria, Caritas Sofia, Center Nadia, MultiKulti Collective, Association for Voluntary Work "CVS" - Bulgaria and many more others.
One of the most important stakeholders for working with refugees is the private sector in Bulgaria. That is why structures such as the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and their projects can be particularly useful for third-country nationals seeking livelihood in our country.
The road map also examines the work of the EU in the direction of support and integration of refugees and migrants. In November 2020, the European Commission adopted an Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027, which promotes inclusion through a whole-of-society approach involving migrant and local communities, employers, civil society as well as all levels of management. The Action Plan emphasizes the provision of targeted support at all stages of integration.
One of the main actions is inclusive education and training — from early childhood education to higher education — with a focus on faster recognition of qualifications and language training supported by EU funds.
Other support tools are the Erasmus+ programme, the SIRIUS network for migrant education, the School Education Portal and the eTwinning platform.
The overall experience of institutional mapping reveals that, although there are a series of tools, obligations, projects and opportunities, there is no standard approach to ensure an adequate institutional map.
One of the main lessons learned by the authors of this roadmap is that policy and practice are constantly changing, so it is necessary to see what changes are planned and to update the map when appropriate.
The paper attempts to provide not only practical information, but also to support the process of better management of the policies of the Republic of Bulgaria regarding refugee inclusion, to highlight and increase our understanding of the complexity of the process within the institutional framework, that is, the complexity of formal and informal patterns of social relationships in managing refugee inclusion policy.
Parthership for Sustainable Refugee Inclusion project is being implemented with financial support of EUR 17,067 provided by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA. The main goal of the Parthership for Sustainable Refugee Inclusion project is to enhance skills of refugee communitie representatives for recognition of the institutional environment and access points to the decision-making system in Bulgaria.
All responsibility for the content of the document is borne by Center for Sustainable Communities Development and under no circumstances can it be assumed that this document reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.