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.