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13 May 2024

Participatory assessment of refugee children in Bulgaria 2023

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This UNHCR report, published on 26 April 2024, presents findings from structured focus group discussions (FGDs) conducted with asylum-seeking and refugee children in Bulgaria. These discussions were held in various cities including Sofia, Harmanli, Plovdiv, Varna, and Stara Zagora, involving children primarily from Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. At least half of the children were from Ukraine.

In recent years Bulgaria has seen the arrival of large numbers of refugees - fleeing ongoing armed conflict, persecution, and instability - from many countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and, more recently, Ukraine. Since 2022, it has received more than 10 000 unaccompanied children seeking protection.

Children are disproportionately affected by the so-called 'refugee crisis' in Bulgaria and face numerous challenges, including lack of access to education, healthcare, and basic necessities. Many refugee children have experienced trauma and exposure to violence as a result of their displacement, which can have long-lasting impacts on their physical and mental well-being. Additionally, language barriers and discrimination can further exacerbate the difficulties they face as they navigate life in a new country.

Key themes explored in the focus group discussions for this report include child protection, education, healthcare, the asylum process, and challenges faced during the journey to Bulgaria.

Some key findings include:

  • Many children and their families are uninformed about their rights, entitlements, and international protection procedures. This lack of awareness leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, and arbitrary protection procedures.
  • Child labour arises as a significant protection risk for refugee children in Bulgaria due to financial pressures faced by their families and their sense of responsibility to abate and contribute to the improvement of their financial situation for their family members back in their home country.
  • The language barriers pose significant challenges for refugee children in accessing education and essential services in Bulgaria.
  • There is urgent need for a responsive social protection system tailored to child refugee needs in Bulgaria.
  • By prioritising child protection and integration, Bulgaria can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for refugee children.
UNHCR Participatory Assessment of Refugee Children in Bulgaria 2023
(7.56 MB - PDF)


Geographic area
Contributor type
International organisation
Original source
Posted by
Bistra Ivanova
Country Coordinator

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