Policy Changes in Bulgaria With the Incoming Ukrainian Refugees




Since Feb. 24, 2022, which marked the beginning of Putin's war in Ukraine, Bulgaria has accepted around 85 000 Ukrainian refugees, more than 40 000 of which are still in the country. The Bulgarian government has introduced a number of policies to ensure temporary protection to people coming from the war-zone in Ukraine.

 Ukrainian refugees. Photo credit: EPA/BGNES.

According to a recent report by the Council of Ministers, the Bulgarian government introduced the provision of temporary protection to displaced persons from Ukraine, an amendment to the national action plan for temporary protection from 2011, and the introduction and implementation of the Unified Information Portal.

 

As of March 14, this policy states that Ukrainian refugees receive a document for protected status at the border, providing refugees with more rights than the international refugee status. 

 

“Every Ukrainian citizen who wishes to receive protected status will have access to health care and other social services in Bulgaria,” the Operational Coordination Group, which is responsible for the actions of state institutions for evacuation and accommodation of refugees from Ukraine arriving in Bulgaria, stated at their first briefing.

 Bulgaria for Ukraine. Photo credit: https://ukraine.gov.bg/bg/your-legal-status/

The amendment to the national action plan for temporary protection from 2011 was another step in the Bulgarian government’s policy changes for Ukrainian refugees. During the 2015 crisis with a great number of refugees coming from Syria and the Middle East, there were more restrictions to them concerning their status, financial support, period of stay, and living conditions. This time, however, the Ukrainian refugees are allowed to open bank accounts and access financial services.

 

The access to financial services is just an example of the several obstacles that refugees from other countries have faced when entering Bulgaria, and which have been removed for Ukrainians.

 

To oppose this claim, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said, “These are not the refugees we are used to. As the Austrian chancellor said, these are our relatives, family. These are Europeans, intelligent, educated people, some of them are programmers. We, like everyone else, are ready to welcome them. This is not the usual refugee wave of people with an unclear past. None of the European countries is worried about them.”

 

Bulgaria also became the first country in the European Union (EU) to launch a national portal that covers all questions related to protection, rights, and integration measures for Ukrainian refugees.

The Unified Information Portal. Photo credit: The Bulgarian National Radio.

This Unified Information Portal is available in four languages: Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Bulgarian. As its official website states, “This platform is built and supported by thousands of volunteers, working with the Bulgarian government to provide evacuation, transport, accommodation, medical and humanitarian help, legal assistance and a roadmap to settling down in Bulgaria, including available employment and education.”

 

The platform will help refugees fleeing Ukraine by providing them with information on how to receive international protection status when they arrive in Bulgaria. Ukrainian citizens can also use the platform as a means to submit help and evacuation reports.

 

The Bulgarian government and society, as well as entrepreneurs and representatives of the non-governmental sector, have gathered their powers and resources to offer temporary shelter, good living conditions in Bulgaria, and job and education opportunities.

 Volunteers loading a van with humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Photo Credit Bulphoto.

Many Bulgarians welcome the Ukrainian refugees. They have organized hundreds of support initiatives, offering humanitarian help, free housing, psychological support, job opportunities, and much more. Additionally, employers believe the economic sector will benefit from the Ukrainian refugees staying in Bulgaria.

 

According to an article from the Bulgarian National Radio, “Bulgarian authorities are making an analysis of the available hotel facilities and municipal and state accommodation bases where refugees can be accommodated.”

 

As of March 12, 1,100 people are accommodated in state and municipal bases, and 2,500 people in hotels. Some Bulgarian citizens have even opened their homes to accept Ukrainian refugees and provide them with free temporary homes.

 

Bulgaria is preparing to accept and help even more refugees coming from Ukraine by ensuring a safe place for a brief stay, as well as the opportunity to study, and the conditions to live in Bulgaria.

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