UNHCR and UNICEF open Blue Dot support hubs for Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria
92 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria are women and children
Sofia, 9 May 2022 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today inaugurated a Blue Dot refugee support centre in partnership with the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria, and representatives from the refugee community. The Blue Dot space is provided by the Bulgarian Red Cross at their headquarters in Sofia and the centre was launched
in the presence of Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova.
The Blue Dots are safe spaces and one-stop hubs for protection and essential services, rolled out in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine – including Poland, Romania, and Moldova – to provide key protection and social services including information, legal counseling, psychological support, identification and referrals for children, women, families, and other people and groups exposed to specific heightened risks as they flee the conflict in Ukraine. Blue Dots expand the assistance provided by national governments and are organized in coordination with state authorities and other partners along key transit routes and destinations to help children and families in need.
In addition to the Blue Dot inaugurated today, UNHCR and UNICEF have set up a Blue Dot information and psycho-social support desk in the crisis centre at Sofia’s Central Railway Station, and at the border crossing in Durankulak, where refugees can seek legal, social, and psycho-social support.
“It has been inspiring to see the Government and the people of Bulgaria so warmly welcoming and helping refugees from Ukraine in this extraordinary time,”
- said UNHCR Senior Emergency Coordinator in Bulgaria, Takeshi Moriyama.
“With the spirit of solidarity, we are scaling up our support for the national efforts. Blue Dots will facilitate coordination amog the broadest possible range of partners to assist all refugees requiring our support under one roof.”
The war in Ukraine has forced over 5.7 million people – half of them children – to flee across borders in search of safety in just over two months. A further 7.7 million people are displaced inside Ukraine.
“This is the fastest growing displacement crisis since World War II, and children are paying the highest price,” said UNICEF Representative to Bulgaria, Christina de Bruin. “Children uprooted by violence need a safe and peaceful place to play and caring people with whom to talk. Blue Dots also contain a designated child-friendly space and psychologists trained to comfort children and provide vital mental health support to help them recover from trauma.”
Bulgaria is generously supporting and hosting over 102,000 refugees from Ukraine who have remained in the country. Four in every ten Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria are children. Bulgaria ranks first by percentage of temporary protection registrations granted in Europe.
National authorities have ensured swift access to territory and assistance. Volunteers have been providing vital support since the earliest stages of the conflict. State institutions, local authorities, NGOs, and civil society work hand in hand and are all contributing to help refugees from Ukraine.
The Blue Dots support these efforts and are placed at locations where professional, trained workers from the Bulgarian Red Cross, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria, and other relevant active organizations in the field can provide legal aid and counselling, identification services for persons at heightened risk, information on access to available services, rights and entitlements, mental and psycho-social support, child-friendly spaces providing non-formal and recreational activities for children.
The Ukrainian refugee crisis is also a protection crisis for women and girls.
In times of conflict and displacement, the risks of gender-based violence, trafficking, abuse, psychological trauma, and family separation increase. Given the gender profile of this refugee outflow – 92 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria are women and children – these risks are multiplied.
Information and services for particularly vulnerable women and children, survivors of gender-based violence, and other vulnerable refugees are available at Blue Dots.
The UN agencies are planning to open Blue Dots at the regional border checkpoint in Russe, Varna, and Burgas in the coming weeks.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.