Close to three weeks after the start of Russia’s current war on Ukraine, a co-ordination centre for the reception of Ukrainian refugees opened the Bulgarian capital city’s Sofia Central Railway Station.
A statement by Sofia municipality said that the opening of the centre was the first decision by the district crisis headquarters.
There are rooms for registration and meals, for rest and sleep, for testing for Covid-19, as well as a room for those who have tested positive for Covid-19.
The centre was organised by Sofia municipality, the Sofia branch of the Bulgarian Red Cross, the regional health inspectorate, Sofia directorate of the Interior Ministry, while the National Railway Infrastructure Company provided the premises.
“The goal is for the people who come to Sofia by train and bus, as well as all other Ukrainians, to receive help on arrival,” Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova said.
“Here we can register them, provided them with information, do Covid tests, and they can get food and sleep,” Fandukova said.
She said that minibuses had been arranged to transport people to places of accommodation or to register to apply for protected status.
In other news in Bulgaria related to Russia’s war on Ukraine:
Bulgaria’s Employment Agency has set up a site where employers can advertise vacancies, the agency’s executive director Smilen Valov told a news conference on March 16.
Mobile teams had been set up to interview Ukrainians about their qualifications.
They will be asked about their educational level, where they have worked, the skills they have, and whether they would like to start working.
The questionnaire can also be filled in online, in Ukrainian.
Refugees can indicate in which economic field or specific profession they would like to work, as well as whether they want to learn Bulgarian.
Based on the information received, the Employment Agency will organise group and individual meetings between applicants and employers.
Minister of Innovation and Growth Daniel Lorer said that there were 23 000 potential jobs in the transport sector, 30 000 in communication and software technology, 23 000 in tourism, 24 000 in construction, 20 000 in textiles and 10 000 in electronics.
Bulgarian National Radio reported on March 16 chaos and long queues in front of the crisis centre in the Black Sea city of Bourgas because of a problem with the registration of refugees.
Mobile teams from the State Agency for Refugees were to register Ukrainians in the district, but it turned out that there were documents only for refugees who had applied last week.
The report said that many Ukrainians had the impression that they would be able to get humanitarian status today, so that they gone in large numbers to the centre.
State Agency for Refugees head Petya Purvanova told Parliament that the agency would urgently sign a three-month contract for translation into Ukrainian.
Purvanova said that Ukrainians were entitled to stay in Bulgaria for 90 days, after which they should decide whether they would apply for protection.
Many were uncertain whether to apply for temporary or international protection, she said.
A fundraising initiative has been set up online to assist refugees arriving in Bulgaria with pet cats.
The organisers of the initiative say that the assistance that people receive at temporary accommodation centres often did not cover the needs of their pets, and there was no governmental support for the pets of refugees either.
The aim of the fundraising is to provide packages with cat food, cat de-worming and information in Ukrainian where to find veterinary care.
The Bulgarian government has set up a website to assist Ukrainians, and to provide information to those in Bulgaria who want to help: ukraine.gov.bg. The website has versions in Ukrainian, English, Bulgarian and Russian.
The governnment has opened a four-language hotline to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine and for all issues related to receiving them in Bulgaria. The telephone numbers are 02/9055555 and +380 322465075.
To support the 7.5 million children in Ukraine who are in danger, Unicef has launched a global appeal. In line with this, Unicef in Bulgaria launched an emergency fundraising campaign to provide emergency humanitarian aid to children and families in Ukraine. You can find additional information by following this link.
Details of the bank account for donations to the Bulgarian Red Cross’s fundraising campaign for humanitarian aid for Ukraine may be found at this link.
(Archive photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)
For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, please click here.
Please support independent journalism by clicking on the orange button below. For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, you can support The Sofia Globe via patreon.com: