Bulgarian Ombudsman: 782 Refugee Children are Wanted in Sofia
Over 100% overcrowding of unaccompanied refugee children in the Refugee Center "Military Ramp".
The capacity of the Security Zone in the refugee center in the capital's “Military Ramp” (Voenna Rampa) district has been increased by more than 100 percent. The zone was built in 2019 specifically for unaccompanied refugee children, with a capacity for 100 children. An inspection of the Ombudsman's staff by the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) at the end of last week found that as of August 12, 2021, 221 unaccompanied minors were registered. The focus of the Ombudsman's inquiry was especially focused on the material and living conditions, the provision of medical and non-medical specialists, the access regime of the Safe Area for unaccompanied children. This was announced by the ombudsman Diana Kovacheva.
During the inspection it was established that 146 of the minors are in the Safe Zone, and 75 of the unaccompanied children are accommodated in a physical education gym. According to the staff of the International Protection Proceedings Department (ICP) at the Registration and Reception Center (ROC), the gym is the only place where unaccompanied children can be accommodated (in case of overcrowding in the Security Zone), as there they are isolated from adult refugees and there is controlled access to the premises. The inspection of the ombudsman found extremely poor material and living conditions, extremely unacceptable and definitely unsuitable for children. An extremely worrying fact is that 75 children have only two bathrooms and two toilets, the room is completely unhygienic, and there is no furniture for storing personal belongings.
"In the context of the forthcoming fourth COVID-19 wave, gathering 75 children in one place carries the risk of an epidemic. In such a room, it is not possible to comply with anti-epidemic measures, "reads the special report of the ombudsman, sent to the chairman of the State Agency for Refugees. The NPM also found that the Safe Area for Unaccompanied Children was overcrowded as well. Six children are accommodated in rooms with a size of about 15 square meters, and 4 children are accommodated in the smaller rooms.
Another problem identified by the NPM is that the staff caring for the children is extremely insufficient - 8 social workers and one psychologist. Social workers do not have the physical ability to support children in their social adaptation, to assess the need for psychological help of each child.
Despite the fact that the main recommendation of the ombudsman as a NPM, namely to build a separate SAR center to accommodate unaccompanied minors, has been partially implemented by building "safe areas" in PMZ - Sofia (in "Military Ramp" and "Ovcha Kupel" district), the team believes that the capacity of the safe areas in case of increased refugee flow is not enough. The NPM recommends that SAR establish an additional Safe Area for unaccompanied children as soon as possible.
According to the data of the management of PMZ - Voenna Ramp district, in the period from January 1, 2021 to August 11, 2021, 1005 refugee children were registered, and 784 left voluntarily. All of them were declared wanted and only two of them were found. two of them. The average stay of a child registered at the Center is about 15 days. This is the reason why only 20 children are included in the educational process.
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