UNHCR: 87% of Ukrainian refugees granted protection by Bulgaria are women and children

Eighty-seven per cent of the Ukrainian refugees to whom Bulgaria has granted temporary protection are women and children, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representation said in an operational update for Bulgaria, released on November 30.

According to the update, since the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria had received 910 594 refugees at its borders and had granted temporary protection, in terms of the EU Temporary Protection Directive, to about 146 493.

The update said that as of November 28, a total of 51 661 Ukrainian refugees remained within Bulgaria.

The UNHCR said that the number of Ukrainian refugees remaining in Bulgaria as of November 28 had not changed significantly from the previous month, 53 213 as of October 5, and there was a slight increase in the daily number of departures compared to the daily arrivals.

During the period between October 5 and November 28, on average there had been 43 more departures than arrivals per day, with the total number of arrivals averaging 2274 compared with 2317 departures, the report said.

The UNHCR noted that Bulgaria’s government had announced on November 16 that refugees from Ukraine accommodated in government accommodation schemes in hotels would be supported for another four months, overriding their previous announcement to end the scheme by November 15 2022.

New arrivals who do not have any means to support themselves will be directed to a Temporary Reception Centre, from where they will be relocated to state facilities.

UNHCR will ensure communication with refugee communities on the new developments, the update said.

It said that the caretaker government had formed a new Task Force for the Ukrainian Refugee Response, focusing on inter-ministerial coordination related to the Ukrainian Refugee Response.

“UNHCR is part of the government-led Task Force Working Group, and will strive to address immediate gaps and advocate for longer term solutions, focusing on inclusion and integration,” the report said.

The UNHCR said that it had activated a Refugee Coordination Model in support of the government’s efforts with an established inter-agency coordination working group led by UNHCR, focusing on protection, education, basic needs, health, and socio-economic inclusion.

Within the Inter-Agency Coordination group, an Accommodation Task Force is being set up to support government’s assessments and needs for accommodating new refugee arrivals and the inter-agency Cash Working Group is also being convened to coordinate efforts.

The update said that Ukrainian refugees arriving in Bulgaria after November 1 and who were not able to support themselves would, in terms of the government’s November 16 decision, be accommodated in the reception facility in Elhovo, (which initially had been set up as a backup immigration
detention facility) for up to 30 days before being relocated to state-owned facilities.

The latest decision does not make an explicit reference to food, and some hotels accommodating Ukrainian refugees have stopped serving meals, while others were continuing to do so on a voluntary basis, the UNHCR said.

The maximum accommodation capacity of the Elhovo centre is 1678 beds, “and UNHCR has been actively advocating with the Government for a more durable, long-term solution to meet the accommodation needs of refugees, especially during the winter season”.

Nearly 80 per cent of Ukrainians who remain in Bulgaria do not currently reside in the government subsidized hotels or state-owned accommodation centres, the report said.

UNHCR in collaboration with other UN agencies is launching the Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA) in mid-December to profile the demographics and intentions of the persons displaced from Ukraine and assess their priority needs, particularly during the winter period.

As part of its preparedness actions for the winter season, UNHCR has stepped up its operations and capacity in Bulgaria, the update said.

Specifically, UNHCR has prepositioned core relief items for the winter and started distributing quilts, pillows, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, bed linen, hygiene kits and nappies across all regions in Bulgaria.

As of November 28, UNHCR has distributed essential and winterized items together with its partner, the Bulgarian Red Cross, to a total of 1943 Ukrainian refugees in Bourgas; 279 in Rousse; 926 in Sofia; 688 in Dobrich and 5317 in Varna, the report said.

(Archive photo: The Ukrainian educational centre, opened in Sofia in September 2022)

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