The National Strategy on Migration of the Republic of Bulgaria 2021-2025
In March 2021, Bulgaria adopted its new national strategy in the field of migration management: the National Strategy on Migration of the Republic of Bulgaria 2021-2025.
It outlines four national goals:
- To provide conditions for the reception of migrants who arrive legally in the country for the purposes of work, study, or other reasons and have legal grounds to stay. By taking into account the needs of the labour market, it focuses in particular highly skilled workers and aims to establish a facilitated regime for entry and residence under the conditions of mobility as a way of attracting highly qualified TCN workers.
- To strengthen the processes of return for foreigners residing in the country without legal grounds - in accordance with the established standards for the protection of human rights - as well as to strengthen the measures for prevention of illegal migration and establishment of illegal residence on the territory of the country.
- To contribute to the adoption of a Common European Asylum System in accordance with the principles of solidarity and responsibility, which ensures adequate reception of persons who actually need protection, while preventing the unequal distribution of the burden of refugee flows and abuses of the system for asylum, as well as preventing secondary movements.
- To participate in the processes of developing and strengthening partnership with third countries and to actively contribute to partnerships with key third countries of origin and transit, which are a source of illegal flows to the Republic of Bulgaria.
In terms of integration, the priorities of this new national strategy can clearly be seen as a step back. First of all, the term “integration” is no longer included in the title of the document. For comparison, the predecessor was called National Strategy on Migration, Asylum and Integration 2015–2020. Second, the part dedicated to integration is very brief and general. It mentions the existing Ordinance on the terms and procedures for concluding, enforcing and terminating the integration agreement of beneficiaries of international protection, and fails to mention that it was never properly implemented due to lack of funding. In fact, Bulgaria hasn’t had a working integration programme for beneficiaries of international protection since 2013. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 2020 Human Rights Report observes that “in 2020, no integration measures or activities were available to recognised refugees or foreigners granted humanitarian status. Thus, the situation of zero integration of refugees in Bulgaria continues for the seventh consecutive year.” Finally, the new Strategy does, however, envision that the integration measures will be financed by the new Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and not by national funding. Cooperation with NGOs, which is outlined in another chapter of the document, cannot compensate the lack of active national integration policy. This means that the integration initiatives on national and local level will be very limited in the next programme period.