SOFIA DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION was founded as non-profit organization with the decision 348
of the Sofia Municipal Council to work for the sustainable development of the capital.

THE BUREAU FOR INFORMATION AND SERVICES FOR THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS WILL CONTINUE TO EXPAND AND DEVELOP IN 2023

Infographic Connectin BUREAU eng 2.2

Since its start in October 2021 the Bureau for Information and Services for Third Country Nationals has been open to every foreign citizen, who needs assistance with information or different kinds of services regarding their integration and way of living in Bulgaria. Almost a year and a half later, the center can proudly announce remarkable results in regard to its services towards third-country nationals who have sought help from the specialists there.

Since October 2021, the bureau has been visited nearly 1,500 times (1,150 in the first year alone) by refugees and migrants seeking information or various types of services. On average, more than 100 people cross the threshold of the center per month, seeking assistance. This is shown in a REPORT ON THE ASSESSMENT OF THE CENTER'S ACTIVITIES SINCE ITS START IN 2021. The most requested services during this period are related accompaniment to various institutions, legal assistance, referral to other organizations, as well as financial assistance.

The average assessment of the bureau's work by its users is excellent - they rate the service received with 4.5 on a 5-point system, and the attitude and competence of the staff receives an enviable rating of 4.7.

The Bureau's online platforms are also enjoying a large interest – with over 1,500 unique users and a total of over 2,200 visits in the first year, the service center's website is an online center for help and assistance to foreign nationals.

Visitors' recommendations for improving the work of the office are related to the presence of more employees in the center, more opportunities to accompany refugees and migrants to different institutions, health, school facilities and others, as well as more frequent offering of legal aid as traditionally the most requested service.

The Bureau of Information and Services for Third Country Nationals continues its activities in the new year, looking for new ways to help refugees and migrants with services and information to help with their integration and way of living.

The bureau’s program for January is accessible here.

The bureau and its activities are a part of the CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, that is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. It was established and has been operating since October last year with the joint efforts of the Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Bulgarian Red Cross, with the support of Pazari Vazrazhdane and UNHCR, co-financed by the EU through the AMIF.

  

CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES IN JANUARY 2023 IN THE BUREAU FOR INFORMATION AND SERVICES FOR THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS

For the bureau the new year began the same way the old one ended – with more and more ways to help third country nationals, migrants and refugees. In December 2022, the bureau was visited by a total of 84 people. Legal consultations continue to be among the most sought-after service, along with socialconsultations. In December, there was also an increase in the number of people interested in studying the Bulgarian language.

On the official website of the bureau, a program is offered every month, in which the various services are described by days and hours. The content of this program is in several languages: Bulgarian, English, French, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic and Persian.

Our statistics show that the site has been visited by more than 2,200 people in the last year and these people have been engaged with the posts and content more than 16,000 times.

Here you can see the program for the month of January:

          - You can find the program for January in Bulgarian HERE.
          - You can find the program for 
January in Ukrainian HERE.
          - You can find the program for 
January in English HERE.
          - You can find the program for 
January in French HERE.
          - You can find the program for 
January in Russian HERE.
          - You can find the program for 
January in Arabic HERE.
          - You can find the program for
January in Farsi HERE.

Happy New Year to everyone!

CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.      

   

  

AWARDS FOR RESPONSIBLE EMPLOYERS OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS 2022

On December 15, the annual Awards for Responsible Employers of Refugees and Migrants took place at SofiaLab, the capital's youth innovation laboratory. Partners in the event were Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Caritas Sofia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and "Za Dobroto" Foundation.

The awards brought together representatives of business, the non-governmental sector and institutions for an evening of appreciation for employers with a contribution to the integration, employment and support of refugees and migrants. The host of the event was Sevdalina Voinova, program director of Sofia Development Association. Svetlana Lomeva, executive director of the organization, presented the first two prizes on behalf of Georgi Georgiev, chairperson of Sofia Muniipal Council - to Henkel Bulgaria and Overgas. The two companies were honored for significant donations to the integration of refugees.

"In these difficult times it is important to help, we are happy about the partnership with NGOs and the opportunity to work with them," said Desislava Ilieva from Henkel, and Vladislava Shalamanova from Overgas added: "This award gives us confidence and energy to work together, then things work out."

Iva Partsaleva, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, presented prizes to two other deserving companies – Terrastone and Lidl Bulgaria for their active work with refugees, including the hiring and training of many migrants, as well as providing assistance for their accommodation in Bulgaria. "Thank you for the award, thank you for the partnership with the non-governmental organizations that support responsible employers. We want to integrate refugees and from the beginning we offer training, housing support, all the way in their work. We remain open to cooperation in the future as well," said Raya Tsvetkova from Lidl Bulgaria.

Tsvetomir Dumanov, director of Caritas Sofia, had the pleasant task of presenting prizes to three companies - Samex, Fransizkup and Sament Engineering. The companies were recognized for their ongoing commitment to working with refugees and migrants, their talent development programs and their first job opportunities for unaccompanied youth. "We are very happy with the cooperation we have established. We expect to build on this partnership next year, we learn from all of you," said Svetoslav Stoychev, regional manager of the company that operates KFC and NORDSEE restaurants in Bulgaria.

Maria Mihailova from "Za Dobroto" Foundation also presented three prizes for deserving employers - the awards went to Bulgarian Burger, "Berezka" and ABC Pharma for their continued efforts to provide decent pay and a good environment to third-country nationals with refugee status and migrants. In the words of Natalia Mantya from "Berezka", "We would like everyone in our team to feel good together, to understand each other."

The awards also marked the beginning of a comprehensive network of private companies, institutions, and non-governmental organizations whose main goal will be the integration and support of refugees and migrants through the country's labor market.

The awards are also part of the activities of the Bureau of Information and Services for Foreign Citizens, which was established and has been operating since October last year with the joint efforts of the Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Bulgarian Red Cross, with the support of Pazari Vazrazhdane and UNHCR, co-financed by the EU through the AMIF.

      

      

      

 

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CONNECTION project: CONNECTING Cities Towards Integration action, is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

CONNECTION AT A EUROCITIES MUTUAL LEARNING EVENT IN RIGA

EUROCITIES working groups on Employment and on Migration, as well as representatives of CONNECTION project and interested cities, got together, hosted by the city of Riga, for a mutual learning event. The focus of the event was how to engage vulnerable women with migrant and refugee backgrounds in the labour market and how to mitigate the challenges they face.

Since the invasion, Latvia has taken in over 40,000 refugees from Ukraine, many of whom remain in Riga, where a refugee support centre was, at one point, seeing over 1000 people every day. The host city showed other good practices, including a Ukrainian school, NGO cooperatives working for integration of migrants, entrepreneurs. The Riga examples were presented by the city mayor and deputy mayor, the Ukrainian ambassador to Latvia, civil society organizations and municipal enterprises.

Participating cities were engaged in workshops, one of which – the gender dimension of integration strategies – was conducted by the CONNECTION integration champions. The mutual learning event was also attended by representatives of DG Employment, DG Home, OECD, UNHCR.

The event finished with a strategy development workshop, developing solutions that can be applicable to other cities working to integrate women from Ukraine, and outlining advocacy efforts at European level.

         

 

CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

 

CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES IN DECEMBRE 2022 IN THE BUREAU FOR INFORMATION AND SERVICES FOR THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS

We consider this year a successful one in the development and work of the "Information and Services Bureau".

Among the most frequently used services, in the last few months of this year, are the legal consultations offered by the "Legal Assistance Center - Voice in Bulgaria" as well as the "Foundation for access to rights - Far". Other frequently used services are humanitarian assistance, escorting to various institutions and medical assistance, language training and health insurance.

The most frequent users of services in the bureau are Syrian citizens, less in number are citizens of Ukraine, Iraq, Russia and other countries.

On the official website of the bureau, a program is offered every month, in which the various services are described by days and hours. The content of this program is in several languages: Bulgarian, English, French, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic and Persian.

Our statistics show that the site has been visited by more than 2,200 people for the last year and these people has been engaged with the posts and content more than 16,000 times.

Here you can see the program for the month of December:

          - You can find the program for December in Bulgarian HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in Ukrainian HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in English HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in French HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in Russian HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in Arabic HERE.
          - You can find the program for
December in Farsi HERE.

On behalf of everyone at the Information and Services Bureau, we wish you happy holidays!

CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

     

   

  

SOFIA AT THE 10th INTEGRATING CITY CONFERENCE

The 10th annual conference Integrating Cities is part of EUROCITIES efforts to strengthen the dialogue between European, national and local level experts and decision makers in policy areas that are crucial for the integration of migrants in European cities. The importance of involving cities in the implementation of the European agenda for integration cannot be overstated and the conferences are an excellent opportunity to highlight this fact.

The conference aimed to enable city authorities to exchange experiences and discuss the most efficient practices and strategies for integrating migrants at local level. Over 100 cities got together to share their best practices in integrating third-country nationals and discuss local and European-level perspectives for the future of integration and inclusion. The event offered various opportunities for dialogue between local politicians and senior officials from Europe’s major cities, representatives from EU institutions, international and non- governmental organisations, academics, and migrant communities. The conference wass organised in the framework of the project ‘CONNECTION – CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration actiON’, co-funded by the European Commission’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and focuses on “Inclusion for all. Empowering vulnerable migrants in cities”.

Sofia is among the project partners, represented by Sofia Development Association. Sevdalina Voynova was among the conference speakers, in the panel dedicated to migrant access to the labour market, sharing Sofia experience with the Bureau for information and services for third country nationals.

The international conference was held back-to-back with the final Connection event, presenting the guides for cities developed in four areas: city integration strategies, gender perspective to integration, pathways to labour inclusion and one-stop-shop for migrants. SDA co-authored the city guide for access to the labour market, available in English at: https://integratingcities.eu/intro?slide=0

The Bureau is established in the framework of #CONNECTION project and funded by a European grant.

     

      

 

CONNECTION project: CONNEcting Cities Towards Integration action, is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

 

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