Over 3400 unaccompanied refugee children have sought protection in Bulgaria since the beginning of 2023.

Eight-year-old Aser has been living in the Harmanli refugee camp for two months. She is one of over 3,400 unaccompanied children seeking shelter in Bulgaria since the beginning of 2023.

According to Bulgarian legislation, unaccompanied minors are defined as children under 18 who enter the country without parents, guardians, or custodians. In the last five years, the number of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in Bulgaria has exceeded 11,000. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and UNICEF - Bulgaria have assisted over 5,600 of them in timely identification, release from immigration detention centers, provision of legal information and assistance, as well as support for reunification with their families.

"Children are the most innocent victims of war," shares Katya Dimitrova, a member of the Refugee and Migrant Legal Aid Program team at BHC. She and her colleagues are among the first to meet refugee children on Bulgarian territory.

BHC and UNICEF – Bulgaria share the journey of unaccompanied children in this short video story. Watch it here:https://youtu.be/GaNTijjuMDc.

In Bulgaria, unaccompanied minors are usually accommodated in the so-called "safe zones" built in two of the State Agency for Refugees' registration and reception centers in Sofia. These zones provide additional care and support tailored to the vulnerable situation of unaccompanied refugee children. Currently, with the support of UNICEF, a third safe zone for unaccompanied children is being constructed in the registration and reception center in Harmanli. In recent years, however, more and more unaccompanied children have come to Bulgaria, and the places in these centers are insufficient for the children in need. Many minors are left without the special protection owed to them by the state. Some unaccompanied children are placed in social services for children within the national child protection system in Bulgaria, mostly infants requiring intensive care.

You can find more information about the work of the Refugee and Migrant Legal Aid Program at BHC here:

https://bghelsinki.org/bg/programs/refugees-and-migrants-legal-aid-program and on the specialized website: https://asylum.bg/bg/info-bg.