On November 15, 2019 a final meeting of the INTEGRA local stakeholder group was held to evaluate the achievements and to plan follow-up activities for the integration of third-country nationals (TCN) in Sofia. The meeting was attended by the participants in the local stakeholders integration group (SIG), the public mediator of Sofia Municipality, representatives of municipal committees, representatives of UNHCR, BCRM, IOM, non-governmental organizations. Sevdalina Voinova, SDA Project Coordinator, presented the creative tools developed by the project partners - they include videos, handouts for organizing debates and discussions, electronic and paper versions of a card game on migration, calendars, and more. The resources are freely accessible and can be used by different target groups - municipal officials, NGOs, teachers, refugee organizations - for training, awareness-raising, involvement in civic initiatives. In Sofia, INTEGRA concludes the two-year project with a very good synergy between SDA, Sofia Municipality (SM), UNHCR, the academic community and a network ready to continue the efforts for migrants integration.
The project team reports ongoing activities to maintain the established mechanisms for providing information and services to migrants in Sofia (by expanding the health services portal, myhealth.bg, supported by the municipality and available in Bulgarian and English), through the office of the public mediator, and others. In a European context, the project's methodology and results were highly appreciated and disseminated widely: INTEGRA is one of the finalists in the CLARINET network competition for the Best Public Campaign for Integration of Migrants; project partners are invited to participate in the exhibition accompanying the Go Local conference, organized by the European Committee of the Regions on 3 December, as well as in several conference panels.
In order to sustain and expand what has been achieved so far, after the completion of the project in December 2019, we will continue to work with all partners from the public and non-governmental sectors in Sofia, focusing on several key objectives:
- Cooperation with the office of the public mediator at Sofia Municipality, to facilitate the access of the TCN to services through preparation of documents and application forms in English, setting up on-site meetings, etc.
- Cooperation with the newly elected municipal council and committees that will have competence in matters of integration of migrants and refugees
- Seeking opportunities to facilitate access for migrants and refugees to the labor market in Sofia through municipal enterprises, e.g. in the metropolitan transport system
- Cooperation with UNHCR and the city administration to initiate changes in the policies for municipal housing, including refugees and migrants in the target group of eligible users
- Continued work to increase the capacity of TCN and their organizations to be involved in civic initiatives and in the decision-making process at local level, through the small grant schemes under the municipal funding programs, Europe Program and Culture Program.
In 2019, once again, Bulgaria commemorates November as the Refugee Month, to recognize the courage of these individuals escaping persecution, conflict, and desperate poverty, some of whom look for a chance to rebuild their lives in our community.
By tradition, Sofia Development Association is a partner of the initiative Refugee Month. On November 14th, 2019, we hosted in SofiaLab a second INTEGRA day - a series of community celebration events. “Community Drum Circle” was organized by Creators Association in partnership with SDA and with the support of IOM. Over 50 people from various nationalities took turns to play drums and percussion in a circle, creating a sense of rhythm and harmony that transcends language and takes participants to another level of understanding.