Assistance in emergencies and humanitarian crises

All children, regardless of their nationality, religion, ethnic and social background, have the right to survive and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. See how UNICEF acts to meet the needs of all uprooted children in Bulgaria

UNICEF Bulgaria/Caritas Sofia/2017


Never before have there been so many children forced to flee for their lives, facing violence, exploitation at the hands of smugglers and traffickers, detention and lack of durable solutions to their future development.

In the last years, the escalation of international and domestic conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the geographic location of Bulgaria on the route of asylum seekers and migrants from these regions towards Europe resulted in a considerable increase of the number of people coming to Bulgaria.

In 2016, more than 19,000 people sought international protection in Bulgaria, one third of whom were children. Nearly half of all children arriving in Bulgaria travelled unaccompanied or were separated from their families during their journey. In 2017, there were 3700 asylum seekers in the country, 1208 of them being children, including 440 unaccompanied minors.

Language barriers, insufficient resources and legislative gaps have posed difficulties to finding durable solutions for children, whether it is their integration in Bulgaria or reunification with family members in other countries.

The challenging living conditions with no safe spaces for children expose them to violence, abuse and exploitation of adults that are also going through hardships themselves. The most vulnerable children – the unaccompanied and separated ones, suffer the most.

All children on the move can become victims to multiple violations of their rights and grave forms of violence at any stage of their journey. Helping them to cope with psychological distress and have a life every child should have calls for urgent actions.


Assistance to victims of emergencies in brief:

UNICEF and its partners work together to support the child protection system in Bulgaria in meeting the needs of children who have lost their families, their homes and are far away from their countries. Yet, they have not lost their future in which they can be happy if they are given a chance to grow in a secure environment encouraging them to develop their potential.

“We learn and play” is UNICEF’s project implemented in partnership with Caritas. It is based on the understanding that the provision of recreational and non-formal learning activities for asylum-seeking children in child-friendly spaces is crucial to their development and coping with the traumatic experiences they have been through. Such activities are also conducive to children’s integration in the Bulgarian society. Under the project, safe spaces for children and for adolescents have been established in the three registration and reception centres for asylum seekers in Sofia as well as the one in Harmanli. There, children have access to а wide range of appropriate activities promoting  positive socialization and non-formal learning, such as Bulgarian and English language classes, maths, drawing, dancing, sports and excursions to places of interest in the country.

Legal aid and counselling is crucial to safeguarding the rights of unaccompanied and separated children. That is why, in partnership with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, UNICEF continues to monitor the situation of children in detention centres and to provide them with interpretation, legal aid and counselling on their rights, risks on the journey to and through Europe and family reunification options. The information and the data collected under this project was also used for evidence-based advocacy against the detention of migrant children, which led to the adoption of the legal ban on detention of unaccompanied and separated children in December 2017. UNICEF is committed to support its effective implementation.

Gender Based Violence (GBV): UNICEF Bulgaria jointly with UNICEF Greece and UNICEF Serbia has recently started the implementation of a one-year regional project aimed at strengthening national capacities to prevent, identify, refer and respond to cases of GBV among the refugee and migrant population. The project places a special focus on unaccompanied children and on meeting the specific needs of both girls and boys.



Refugee and migrant children - a road map for protection of unaccompanied children:

The Way Forward to Strengthened Policies and Practices for Unaccompanied and Separated Children in Europe:

Up to three quarters of children and youth face abuse, exploitation and trafficking on Mediterranean migration routes – UNICEF, IOM:

General comment No. 6 (2005): Treatment of Unaccompanied and Separated Children Outside their Country of Origin:

Joint general comment No. 3 (2017) of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and No. 22 (2017) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the general principles regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration:

Joint general comment No. 4 (2017) of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and No. 23 (2017) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on State obligations regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration in countries of origin, transit, destination and return:

Relevant websites: (* not entirely translated in English)