Monitoring on the integration of beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria in 2014

    Zvezda Vankova
    Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants

    Since 2013 Multi Kulti Collective has been carrying out independent monitoring on the integration of refugees in Bulgaria. In 2014 there was no National Programme for Integration, so the Multi Kulti team monitored a “year of zero integration” and outlined the challenges facing the integration of persons with international protection which should be addressed by the stakeholders at central and local level in 2015. Its purpose was to help directly the process of developing the Integration plan for the next year.

    The year 2014 can be defined as a “year of zero integration”, as it was for the first time ever since 2005 – when the first National Program for the Integration of Refugees in the Republic of Bulgaria (NPIRRP) was developed – that the beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria had been left on their own, without being provided with specific integration measures for initial integration, including access to targeted financial aid for covering costs related to health insurance and accommodation outside the Registration-and-Reception Centres with the State Agency for Refugees (RRCs with SAR). This resulted in an extremely difficult access to basic social, labour and health rights for these individuals in 2014, while their wish to permanently settle on the territory of Bulgaria was minimized, according to the feedback from the interviews.

    The government, instead of ensuring the expeditious and adequate drafting of the new National Program for Integration in order to support the integration of a considerable number of individuals granted refugee and humanitarian status in 2014, chose to take a step backward and approve a National Strategy for the Integration of Beneficiaries of International Protection in the Republic of Bulgaria (2014–2020) – a framework document to serve as a basis for drafting the annual program and future integration plans. This decision proved to be counterproductive in the specific context, and the result therefrom was an absolute denial of any integration support.

    As for the Strategy drafted in 2014, it sets forth ambitious goals and objectives providing for municipalities to be involved in the process of integration, as the latter had never played a specific role in the implementation of these policies. The major issue with this approach is that municipalities would be willing to take up a role only if their participation has a financial back-up; as of the period monitored, however, neither had financial estimates been made, nor did the state budget include specific measures to be financed. This situation poses the risk for the “year of zero integration” to be carried over into 2015; moreover, the government has not yet developed an Integration Plan for 2015 or, if such a draft does exist, it has not been duly submitted for approval and financing.

    In 2014 the stakeholders continued their traditional activities and measures in support of the integration of refugee and humanitarian status holders; however, as the data in the Report show, the beneficiaries of these services were few due to the lack of information and the absence of motivation for settling in the country.