Refugee Integration in Bulgaria 2021: A Comprehensive Monitoring Report

    Bistra Ivanova
    Panayot Chafkarov
    Multi Kulti Collective
  • ISBN
    European Commission, Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

    Refugee Integration in Bulgaria 2021: A Comprehensive Monitoring Report is developed in the framework of the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM). The report aims to present in-depth data on the quality of the legal framework and policies in support of the long-term integration of beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) in Bulgaria and to analyse their implementation and the effects on the target group.

    This is comparative research across 14 EU Member States – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. This report covers the period 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2021. Using the same methodology since 2017, it makes a comparison over time with a view to presenting and evaluating the dynamics in terms of changes in the legal framework, policies and implementation in the area of integration. The research under NIEM assumes that integration is a responsibility of the state, while NGOs and EU funds have a supporting role.  This is why it evaluates solely the activities funded by the state budget.

    The cross-country comparison covers 12 dimensions:

    • Mainstreaming
    • Residency
    • Family reunification
    • Access to citizenship
    • Housing
    • Employment
    • Vocational training and employment-related education
    • Health
    • Social security
    • Education
    • Language learning and social orientation
    • Building bridges

    The NIEM methodology uses qualitative and quantitative methods. It basically consists of a complex system of over 160 indicators – a tool for scoring the performance of each state in the 12 dimensions of integration of BIPs, which allows objective measuring, comparing, monitoring progress, etc.

    The report methodology introduces an additional perspective for addressing integration: three stepstones with the following focus:

    1. Setting the legal framework;
    2. Building the policy framework;
    3. Implementation and collaboration.

    The above differentiation is yet another instrument whereby, in addition to verifying the existence of certain legislation and policies, an analysis can be made of how efficient they are in terms of their application, and, respectively, in terms of specific positive outcomes for the end beneficiaries.

    The scoring by the various indicators and dimensions is based on a standardized questionnaire and evaluation by means of a scoring system. This approach allows maximum objectivity and a cross-country comparison based on specific, measurable data and facts. The maximum number of points is 100.

    The key results from the analysis reveal that strong divergences among countries persist – the first 2017 NIEM Report (Wolffhardt et al., 2019) highlighted substantial divergences in terms of the integration support for BIPs provided by the countries in the research. The 2021 data confirms the 2017 findings. In spite of the efforts made by the EU, including via financial measures, profound divergences persist between the EU Member States in terms of the level of BIP integration. In the context of the Ukrainian refugee crisis of February 2022, it appears that the countries hosting the highest numbers of Ukrainian refugees are the least prepared for this. This stresses the need for common European efforts toward developing integration in all Member States.

    The second key conclusion from Evaluation 2 under NIEM is about stagnant overall development in the area of integration in all 14 countries participating in the research. While positive and negative changes have occurred in some countries and dimensions, they have not significantly changed the situation in any of the steps evaluated. Moreover, the data shows that the small steps forward have been compensated by small setbacks; hence, the overall scores remain almost the same. Compared to 2019, the result for Bulgaria shows a minor setback of 0.9 points.

    The overall results show that 9 states rank on the scale as “moderately supportive”, but none of them reaches the level of “broadly supportive”.  Bulgaria and another 4 countries in Eastern Europe – Greece, Romania, Poland and Hungary – rank as “marginally supportive” with 32.8–39.5 points. The score for Bulgaria is 37.1 points. The only countries ranking after Bulgaria are Poland and Hungary whose scores are, respectively, 36.9 and 32.8 points.

    The National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM) project has been implemented by Multi Kulti Collective and the Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants in partnership with UNHCR, with co-funding from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.