Experts and volunteers help foreigners adapt in Bulgaria
The first Bureau for Information and Services for Third Country Nationals has been functioning in Sofia since September 2021. The aim of the team working there is to facilitate the access by foreigners, most of all from non-EU countries, to various administrative, legal, health and social services in Bulgaria, to help their smoother and faster integration into Bulgaria society.
“In the space of three months we have had over 200 foreigners from more than 14 countries use our services,” explained Sevdalina Voynova, director of Programmes at the Sofia Development Association, and pointed to some examples of issues the team of the Bureau can help foreign citizens in Sofia with:
“Imagine a university student in their last year, from Ukraine, for example, who receives an offer for a part-time job, but one of the requirements is to have a Bulgarian uniform civil number. They don’t know what to do or who to turn to for help,” Sevdalina Voynova says. “Or if you hold a temporary job, on a regular employment contract (for example, a housekeeper from Moldova on a 3-month contract, and there are many such cases) and you do not know if you are entitled to go to a doctor.”
Assistance for gaining access to the labour market, to social services, for filling out papers, for submitting applications, legal and medical care – these are some of the services the Bureau offers. “Help in cases such as these is extremely important, especially for foreigners coming from countries with administrative and political structures that are entirely different, who do not speak Bulgaria, know nobody in the country and don’t even know where to start to solve their problems,” Sevdalina Voynova says.
“We have a team of social workers who speak different languages – English, French, Arabic and Farsi. We work with medical experts, with psychologists who can provide psychological assistance to people who need it. There are experts in labour law, and this makes us really happy because legal services are very much in demand – they are very important for preparing documents of any kind. We have also been working more and more often with volunteers – for preparing for a job interview, so that the applicant can do the best they can. By prior appointment we provide escorts to a doctor or to different institutions. The people escorting the foreign nationals speak foreign languages and are often of migrant origin themselves, but are fully integrated in society and are naturalized.”
Looking for and finding a job is one of the most important services foreigners seek out, she adds. More and more employers have been turning to our team to popularize the positions they are offering, or to organize work interviews with foreigners. “The best way the team can help you is if you pay us a visit in person,” Sevdalina Voynova says. “At the Bureau you will receive the full range of services in no less than two languages to help your integration and development in the country,” she explains.
Interview by Luiza Lazarova, Radio sofia-BNR
Editing by Vessela KrastevaPhotos: infobureau.bcrm-bg.org and library