Working forum Social adaptation, inclusion and integration of persons from Ukraine registered for temporary protection in Bulgaria

The Ukrainian refugee crisis that began at the end of February 2022 is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II. As of November 2023, more than 50 thousand displaced persons from Ukraine remained in Bulgaria, and the number of valid registrations for temporary protection is more than 66 thousand. It is this situation and the number of persons from Ukraine in Bulgaria that necessitates placing an emphasis on their integration.

The integration of refugees from Ukraine is a key process that requires cooperation and commitment from all actors and stakeholders. The provision of educational opportunities, health care and adequate housing is essential for successful integration. Labor market integration and support for the acquisition of new professional skills are also of great importance. Establishing language training programs and providing information about their rights and opportunities are also important components of the successful integration of refugees from Ukraine.

In order to address both the challenges and the opportunities on November 17, the Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants in partnership with the State Agency for Refugees under the Council of Ministers organized a Working Forum on Social Adaptation, Inclusion and Integration of Refugees from Ukraine who received temporary protection in Bulgaria. The forum laid out three fundamental directions regarding the integration of refugees from Ukraine: the role and position of state authorities and public institutions, the experience of local authorities and the private sector at the local level, the experience of non-governmental organizations, as well as the role of communities and organizations led by Ukrainians in Bulgaria.

On the part of the state institutions, the role of the State Agency for Refugees, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism, Agency for Social Assistance, Employment Agency and State Agency for Child Protection was presented. The experience of local authorities and businesses in the country was presented by the Municipality of Plovdiv and the Municipality of Varna and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The expertise of the non-governmental sector as a key participant in the process of refugee integration was presented by the Bulgarian Red Cross and Caritas. The role of community organizations and Ukrainian organizations in the country as a bridge between Bulgarian society and refugees from Ukraine was presented by Ukraine Support and Renovation Foundation, Mi Razom and Arms Wide Open.

The forum is organized under the project Advocacy for the refugee integration in Bulgaria, funded by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and it is another logical step of the Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants to develop a sustainable mechanism for integration, an inclusive and supportive environment for refugees in Bulgaria, linked to social and economic development at the local level.