Bulgaria ranks first among European Union countries in the number of Ukrainians fleeing the war who have been granted temporary protection status, according to Mariana Tosheva, head of the State Agency for Refugees and of the government’s task force on refugees.
Temporary protection status provides them with access to health care, education, and the right to work.
Tosheva told a news conference on May 12 that of the 252 826 Ukrainians who had arrived in Bulgaria since the February start of Russia’s current war on Ukraine, about 41 per cent had remained in Bulgaria.
A total of 102 522 Ukrainians had been granted temporary protection in Bulgaria, close to 100 per cent of those who had remained in the country, she said.
Of the Ukrainians who had remained in Bulgaria, 52 000 were women and 39 143 were children. There were 436 unaccompanied children, Tosheva said.
She said that by the end of the week, a digital platform would be launched to collect data on how many Ukrainians intend to stay in Bulgaria, because some had said that they would leave after May 31.
May 31 is the date that the state scheme to accommodate Ukrainian citizens in hotels ends, and they will be transported to state and municipal properties in various places in Bulgaria.
In the transport plan, priority is to be given with people with special needs, mothers with children and the chronically ill.
Deputy Transport Minister Vladimir Vurbanov said that the relocation of the Ukrainians would be done mainly by rail. Carriages will be added to regular trains to transport the Ukrainians.
Tosheva said that of those Ukrainians who intended remaining in Bulgaria, about 70 per cent want to take up permanent jobs.
Some of those who will have to leave hotels at the end of May have said that they want to rent accommodation rather than go to state properties.
A subgroup had been set up to co-ordinate the actions of the authorities and the civil sector in order to prevent human trafficking and assist refugees. There were currently no reports of human trafficking among Ukrainian refugees, the news conference was told.
(Photo: A sign showing the way to the temporary protection reception point at Sofia Central Railway Station)
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