National Network for Children’s Position of on the Coordination Mechanism for Unaccompanied Refugee Children
National Network for Children welcomes the creation of the Coordination Mechanism, which will bring more clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of the institutions in cases of unaccompanied refugee children on the territory of Bulgaria. The creation of this mechanism has been awaited since 2014. Its strengths are the scheduled obligations to notify the child protection system in all cases, the introduction of a 24/7 working regime and the envisaged system for monitoring the implementation of the mechanism.
At the same time, we are extremely worried about the possibility left for children to be accommodated in Registration Reception Centers. All children without a parent or other adult responsible for them should be handed over to the Social Assistance Directorate and protective measures should be applied to them under Art. 4 of the Child Protection Act, namely, when the possibilities for accommodation with relatives and friends are exhausted, priority accommodation in a foster family and, exceptionally, accommodation in a social service for residential care.
Secondly, it is necessary to unify the application of the definition of unaccompanied children so that it covers all foreign children on the territory of Bulgaria, unaccompanied or separated from a parent or responsible adult. It is necessary to introduce an additional mechanism for establishing the child’s status, which would guarantee that even in the absence of notarized documents, the child will not be separated when actually accompanied by a relative or relative.
And last but not least, further refinement of the mechanism to ensure the participation of all supporters, including social services, is needed, including the mandatory referral of all cases of unaccompanied children to a social service in the community that provides the necessary support to the child.
All unaccompanied refugee children need protection, support and a family. For this purpose, the necessary investments must be made in the capacity of the child protection system and the development of foster care, including among foreign citizens who have chosen to live in Bulgaria, which would guarantee a suitable cultural environment for children. There are international good practices that can be adapted and applied. An additional possibility is to think in the direction of specialization of services that have an integration function and can provide systematic support to children, adoptive and birth families, as well as mediate contacts with institutions. Specialists for such services can be prepared with additional training in working with trauma and a good knowledge and work with cultural specifics of the countries from which refugee children predominantly enter.