Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry outlines rules on arrivals from Ukraine

In line with EU rules, citizens of Ukraine have the right to visa-free entry to Bulgaria and the right to stay for 90 days within a six-month period, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said on March 1.

The note came six days after, acting on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian military forces launched a new massive military invasion of Ukraine, triggering a stream of refugees out of Ukraine.

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said that, in terms of the Foreigners Act, the term of the stay in Bulgaria could be extended for humanitarian reasons related to extraordinary circumstances.

The ministry said that Ukrainian citizens wanting to extend their visa-free stay could apply to the Migration Directorate before the term of their visa-free stay was over.

The form could be filled in on the spot or completed in advance by downloading it from the Migration Directorate website.

Ukrainian citizens of Bulgarian origin can obtain a long-term or permanent residence permit in Bulgaria if they have an employment contract with a Bulgarian employer for a period longer than six months.

Citizens of Ukraine who want to receive international protection – refugee status or humanitarian status – may apply at the offices of the State Agency for Refugees.

In other news in Bulgaria on the afternoon of March 1 related to the Russian-Ukrainian war:

The Health Ministry said on March 1 that minister Assena Serbezova had sent a letter to the regional health inspectorates and emergency medical care centres in the country, asking them to take all possible and necessary actions to provide quality and timely medical care for citizens of Ukraine seeking asylum in Bulgaria.

Serbezova said in the letter that that it is necessary to coordinate between regional health inspectorates, the Sofia emergency medical care service and medical institutions in the country so that every Ukrainian citizen receives the necessary health care.

The regional health inspectorates and Sofia emergency medical care centre must inform the Ministry of Health in a timely manner about the organisation established in each district, about the actions taken and the coordination system, the statement said.

In connection with the provision of health care to Ukrainian citizens who pass through or stay in Bulgaria, Serbezova also held a meeting with representatives of the State Agency for Refugees, Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, Bulgarian Red Cross, Child Protection State Agency, among others.

At the meeting, State Agency for Refugees head Petya Parvanova said that every citizen of Ukraine who had applied for international protection had the right to free health care in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian National Radio reported that volunteers travelling in seven cars and a minibus had left Dobrich for the border with Ukraine to provide transport for refugees who are unable to travel to Bulgaria.

The trip was organised within two days on social networks, and they were joined by Dobrich municipality, which provided two more minibuses.

The cars will also transport food and sanitary materials to leave at the border, the report said.

Municipalities in the Veliko Turnovo region are having serious difficulties in welcoming refugees from the war in Ukraine, Bulgarian National Radio said.

A bus with 70 refugees from the war in Ukraine was expected in Svishtov. They will be accommodated in the municipal social housing, but there is a problem and a donation campaign has been announced, Svishtov municipality official Lyubomira Petrova said.

“There are no cookers and a donation campaign has already been announced for the collection of packaged food, bedding and hygiene products,” Petrova said.

“We will ask for financial help from the state because we cannot cover the costs of accommodating and feeding the refugees in the municipal hotel,” Polski Trumbesh deputy mayor Azif Kadir said.

“Our preliminary estimates show that we need about 100 leva (about 50 euro) per person per day,” Kadir said.

Bulgaria’s broadcast regulator the Council for Electronic Media voted, four out of five in favour with one abstention, to temporarily restrict Russian broadcasters from being retransmitted in Bulgaria.

The decision, taken a special meeting on March 1, affects RT (Russia Today) and its derivatives, as well as Sputnik and its derivatives, the Council for Electronic Media said in a notice on its website.

The council’s decision has been sent to the Communications Regulatory Commission for implementation.

Daily Sega quoted council member Rozita Elenova as saying that the decision was even belated, as Bulgaria had long been in a situation of hybrid war.

“These Russian media have proved that they cannot impartially present the news, and today we are carrying out a normal act of control due to continued aggressive propaganda,” Elenova said.

“At a time of military aggression, there is incitement to hatred and violence, something that is a punishable crime even in extremely liberal legislation like ours,” she said.

Sega said that the council member who abstained was Sonya Momchilova, appointed to the council in 2021 from the quota of President Roumen Radev.

For The Sofia Globe’s earlier roundup on March 1 of news in Bulgaria related to the Russian-Ukrainian war, please click here.

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