The Sofia Globe reports on the viewpoint of the UNHCR office in Bulgaria on Bulgaria's new ordinance on the integration of refugees. In sum, it is concluded although Bulgaria’s government has undertaken some positive actions towards improving the integration of refugees, limitations nevertheless exist.
On the 12th of July, Bulgaria’s government adopted a new ordinance on the integration of refugees. This ordinance envisions an agreement between a municipal mayor and an individual who has been granted asylum or international protection. This agreement contains explicit integration actions and indicators to assess the process of integration. The agreement lasts for one year, with the possibility of a further extension of another year, although there are certain instances in which it can be terminated early, such as if the individual granted asylum is given a jail sentence, violates public order or does not complete the obligations of the agreement.
Although this adoption of the ordinance is a positive step, especially as the new ordinance “assigns responsibility for the coordination of the integration processes to a Deputy Prime Minister”, it is essential that these changes are actually adopted in practice. Moreover, there are still various limitations with the ordinance and Bulgaria’s response to refugee integration. For example, there is still no state programme for integration of refugees in place in Bulgaria, and the ordinance does not provide access to social housing or family benefits, nor does it clearly outline provisions for access to Bulgarian language training. Additionally, the ordinance does not include any plans about awareness-raising activities for the local population in order to inform them about refugee and integration issues and positive contributions that refugees can provide to the country. As such, there are still multiple areas in which Bulgaria’s government needs to improve their efforts in refugee integration.