The Council of Europe’s Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees, Tomáš Boček, recognises the efforts made by Bulgaria to cope with the challenges of a high number of arrivals of migrants and refugees, but highlights concerns about difficulties they face in entering into Bulgarian territory, notably at the border with Turkey, and in accessing international protection.
“Bulgaria has made significant progress in enrolling refugee children in schools; however, the social inclusion of migrants and refugees in local communities is slow due to the fact that municipalities’ responsibilities are not mandatory, as well as a generally negative public attitude towards migrants and refugees,” Boček said in a report published on April 23 2018.
Boček emphasised that Bulgaria should put in place a functioning system of age-assessment and guardianship for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children.
He recommended addressing issues such as the lack of information available to asylum-seekers about their rights, the lack of interpretation and legal aid during the status determination procedures.
The recommendations of the report focus on concrete action on how the Council of Europe can offer assistance to Bulgaria, notably in order to improve foreigners’ access to international protection, to strengthen safeguards during immigration detention as well as the protection of vulnerable persons.
Boček carried out the fact-finding mission on November 13-17 2017, visiting reception centres for migrants and refugees and meeting representatives of the relevant Bulgarian authorities and NGOs.
(Photo: Ben Melrose/ V Photo Agency)