"Hope far from home" - motto of the World Refugee Day for 2023

As of today's date, the data shows that over 1,300,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine have entered our country since the Russian invasion in February 2022. More than 160,000 of them have sought temporary protection here. Around 50,000 individuals have permanently settled in Bulgaria.

For the second consecutive year, World Refugee Day passes under the shadow of the war in Ukraine. However, there are also other hotspots around the world where millions of people are forced to leave their homes due to wars and persecution. According to UNHCR data in 2022, over 110 million people have been forcibly displaced, with the majority coming from Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar.

In 2022, the migration pressure towards Bulgaria from the south continued to increase. Over 16,000 migrants entered the country, and another 20,000 sought international protection. However, nearly half of those who sought protection in our country fled before the procedure could be completed.

The increased flow led to an increase in pushback practices. The National Monitoring Mechanism for Border Surveillance marked another sad record with 5,268 alleged pushbacks affecting over 87,000 people. Reported cases of verbal and physical violence, as well as humiliating practices during body searches, strip searches, and illegal seizure of clothes and belongings, have reached epidemic proportions since 2015.

On the other hand, the practices of the State Agency for Refugees have significantly improved. Of particular importance is the effort to accommodate unaccompanied children seeking or already receiving protection in Family-Type Accommodation Centers, cared for by qualified personnel focused on children at risk.

However, one of the significant deficits in our country remains the lack of adequate integration policy and institutional support for the inclusion of those granted protection into society, ensuring access to healthcare, education, social assistance, the labor market, and more.

For more statistics and observations on the topic, you can find them in the chapter "Right to Asylum and International Protection" in the Annual Report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations in honor of refugees worldwide. It is observed every year on June 20th, celebrating the strength and courage of people who have been forced to leave their homes to escape conflict or persecution.

The theme of World Refugee Day in 2023 is "Hope Far from Home." In the context of this headline is also the story of Galina. She is a Ukrainian woman who has been working as a legal consultant at the "Blue Dot" - a center for protection and support of refugees from Ukraine, jointly organized by UNHCR and UNICEF, since the summer of 2022. She lives in Bulgaria with her two children, but she says that half of her soul is still back home in Zaporizhia. What does it mean to be a "successful" refugee, and how do Ukrainians cope here? Explore Galina's story to find out.