A new stage in mastering the refugee wave. Municipalities - again on the front line




On April 20, a working meeting of the NAMRB was held in hybrid format with Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova and the Head of the Operational Coordination Group on Refugees from Ukraine, Colonel Valery Rachev.

So far, nearly 200,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered our country, of which over 90,000 have settled in the country, and in addition to those residing as tourists, about 80,000 have already been granted temporary asylum status. It entitles them to stay in Bulgaria and support under the European Commission Directive for a period of one year, during which they have the right to start work and to use social, health and educational benefits as citizens of the host country, informs Colonel Rachev. Government assistance program for accommodated refugees from Ukraine ends on 31 May and the new phase requires consolidation of the efforts of central and local government, business and civil society organizations.

Resources are increasingly declining, and in this respect the Task Coordination Group acknowledges that options for displacing Ukrainians staying in hotels are considered. Options discussed are as follows:

- Organizing crisis centers in the country in places that can offer shelter to larger groups of people. In this respect, municipalities could propose similar buildings in which centres should be organised and should send to the NAMRB in advance an estimate of the necessary preparatory activities and estimated costs. Maintenance of the established centers will be subject to additional funding, for which there is currently no specific information.

- Activation of employers who are ready to hire Ukrainian citizens, to make a commitment to provide funds for renting a home or stay in provided by the employer place of residence. More than 66% of those entering the country have declared a desire to start work, the majority of which have good educational status. The main problem for most of them is care for their children when starting a new job.

The mayors of municipalities where compact groups of Ukrainian citizens are located could also help to better inform them about the terms and conditions under which they can stay in Bulgaria, Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova called. A key guide to the imminent displacement of Ukrainian citizens granted temporary protection will be the areas where work is proposed.

Government will rely on municipalities to set up an organisation to provide information on the rights they have received temporary protection, to settle the formalities for providing kindergartens and schools for children, as well as possibilities for health care and social services. The Task Coordination Group is yet to draw up detailed guidelines that NAMRB will disseminate to all municipalities.

Government envisages to identify several areas where buffer centres will be built in the event of more massive wave of Ukrainian citizens. The aim of such centres will be to provide temporary shelter to large groups of people until the formalities of their status have been settled and targeted at places for longer accommodation or work. Municipalities that have appropriate conditions - large sports halls or other suitable buildings or facilities with dropped functions can also submit information to the NAMRB in order to be included in the inspection sites and possible transformation.

It is envisaged that for the costs of all activities for providing shelter, food and additional services of necessity, municipalities will receive support from the state budget. Therefore, information on the provision of buildings and premises for crisis or buffer centres should be accompanied by an estimate of the necessary preliminary activities to align with the new functions and an estimate of the monthly cost of maintenance and staffing. The main objective of these efforts is to integrate Ukrainian citizens seeking protection in Bulgaria into the community so as to mitigate the process after the suspension of the direct state support program.

Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova stressed that the meeting was a little late, but so far government has relied mainly on volunteers and civil organizations for the processes, which are mainly within the competence of the central institutions. In the new phase of dealing with the refugee crisis, which the country is entering from the beginning of June, joint action with municipalities will be crucial.

Mayors of municipalities shared their experience so far and called for clear orders tailored to the powers of the mayors. They rely on an understanding by the state that the tasks faced by power at all levels require not only good coordination and mutual trust, but also clear financial commitments. So far, in dealing with the problems that have arisen as a result of the refugee wave, municipalities dealing with their own resources and in many cases on the edge of the law. They also share the complication from the checks initiated by various control bodies, such as the Regional Health Inspectorate and others, which, instead of helping to overcome the problems, create unnecessary tension and put pressure on the ground.

NAMRB has representatives in all working groups formed with the Government's Operational Coordination Group. Meetings with the mayors of municipalities and with the NAMRB will be held already weekly and the Association will inform all its members about the issues discussed and the decisions taken.

On the NAMRB website, a special section is established, publishing all received instructions, orders and instructions in connection with the management of the crisis provoked by the war in Ukraine.

The meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova and the team of the Operational Coordination Group of the Council of Ministers was attended by the mayors of the Management Board of the National University of Bulgaria Dimitar Nikolov – Mayor of Burgas, Atanas Stoilov – Mayor of Aksakovo, Dimitar Brchkov – Mayor of Petrich, as well as the Mayors of Lovech Korneliya Marinova, Kavarna Elena Baltadzhieva, Stara Zagora Zhivko Todorov, Deputy Mayor of Blagoevgrad Maria Petrova. of Plovdiv – Dimitar Tityukov and Shabla – Petar Atanasov, the secretaries of Sofia Municipality – Venera Milova, Varna Municipality – Nora Momcheva and Dobrich municipality – Kalina Georgieva, directors of directorates from the municipalities of Ruse, Pernik and Lovech, the NAMRB Executive Director Silviya Georgieva and Deputy Executive Director Teodora Dacheva and the Head of the International Department Yana Docheva.