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Victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, persons in need of international protection and those deprived of liberty are among the vulnerable groups in need of the support of the civic sector in their relationships with institutions. Their problems were at the forefront of the discussion at the roundtable ‘Vulnerable Groups between the Civil Society and the State’, organized on 7 October 2015 by the Center for the Study of Democracy. Representatives of institutions and NGOs, involved in supporting the four vulnerable groups, took part in the event.

In her opening remarks, Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of the Law Program of the Center, marked the highlights of the Center’s long years of work on the situation of all four vulnerable groups and the importance of the co-operation between institutions and NGOs in the improvement of their position. In her address, Ms Kamelia Dimitrova, Acting Secretary of the National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, gave examples of the Commission’s successful interaction with NGOs and re-iterated the commitment and will of the institution for wide scale application of models of co-operation with the civil society.

Ms Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow with the Law Program of the Center, pointed to the problematic areas in the communication between vulnerable communities and institutions, on which the research deliberates, and outlined the future steps of the initiative.

In the roundtable’s first panel the authors of the report ‘Supporting Vulnerable Groups before the State: the Role of Civil Society Organisations’ presented its findings. Ms Yva Alexandrova, Senior Analyst with the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, announced the conclusions and recommendations, regarding victims of trafficking and vulnerable foreigners. Victims of trafficking face problems like identification, lack of targeted campaigns in main places of origin, difficulties in criminal proceedings against traffickers, insufficiency of services. Regarding foreigners in need of international protection Ms Alexandrova pointed out to the language barrier and the lack of information in languages, understandable to foreigners, as well as to the problems in the international protection procedure.

Ms Maria Doichinova, Analyst with the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, outlined the main problems, faced by persons deprived of their liberty in their relations with institutions. Among them are isolation and the excessive dependency on the prison authorities, which reflects on the workload of prison social workers, dealing with prisoners’ problems within and outside prison. Ms Miriana Ilcheva deliberated on the difficulties before victims of domestic violence – the lack of ratification of the Istanbul Convention, problematic relations with health authorities, as well as with the judiciary in the protection order proceedings.

In the ensuing discussion Ms Kamelia Dimitrova presented the efforts of the anti-trafficking commission to further develop its models for co-operation with NGOs and to update the National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking. Emphasis was made on the Commission’s legislative initiatives and the need to use NGOs’ legal expertise in this regard, the re-opening of shelters for victims of trafficking and their long-term reintegration. Ms Kremena Chobanova, Juvenile justice consultant with UNICEF, pointed out the treatment of children victims of internal trafficking as authors of anti-social acts.

Ms Anna Andreeva, Director of social activity and adaptation with the State Agency for Refugees, stated the key role and contribution of the civil sector in the refugee crisis of the recent past and outlined the problems in the statute of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups. Ms Nadka Doychinova, Chief expert in the Agency for Social Assistance, and Mr Tzvetan Tzvetkov, Chief of Social Activity Sector in the General Directorate for Execution of Penalties, raised the issue of the difficulties in financing the issuing of identity papers of prisoners and the ensuing problems in paying their social support. The shortage of financial resources in the penitentiary system was also emphasized.

Ms Nelly Angelova, Director of the Special Home for Temporary Placement of Foreigners in Busmantsi, pointed out that the closed establishments of the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, such as the Home, had actually overcome many of the problems, characteristic of the penitentiary system.

In the roundtable’s second panel, Ms Miriana Ilcheva presented a draft concept on more effective participation of NGOs in the system of support of vulnerable groups. Co-ordination of efforts between institutions and NGOs on all levels, including project financing of organisations from the state budget, as well as better presence of civic structures in the process of preparing legislation and policy making, are suggested as general avenues for such participation. The concept also offers concrete sector reforms, among which an established mechanism for access of NGOs to prisons, participation of civil society in trainings of institutions on all levels, enhanced presence of the non-governmental sector in the reintegration of victims of trafficking.

Ms Radostina Pavlova, International programs and projects Expert in the Animus Association Foundation, outlined the four main roles of the civic sector as regards vulnerable communities – experts, mediators, defenders of rights and service providers. Ms Pavlova warned of the danger of dependence of the civic sector on the state in case of state financing and of insufficient development of state capacity, if some activities are left entirely on NGOs.

In the ensuing discussion Dr Mila Mancheva, Senior Analyst with the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, re-iterated the argument that NGOs should not replace institutions in their functions established by law, but pointed out that sometimes organizations do not have sufficient resources either.

Ms Marieta Dimitrova, Legal expert with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law, outlined the important role of NGOs as guarantor and advocate of the rights of persons deprived of legal capacity and appealed for strengthening organizations’ role in judicial proceedings. Ms Anna Andreeva and Dr Mila Mancheva expressed their opinions on the calls for project proposals, offered by the State Agency for Refugees, the requirements they pose and, in view of Dr Mancheva, the often impossible deadlines for submission of documents.

Ms Yana Sabeva, Communications Expert with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit-Law, invited the institutional and NGO representatives to express support for the pending legislative proposals to form a Council for the development of civil society with the Council of Ministers and to create a state-financed fund to support the sustainable and innovative ideas of organizations on a competitive basis.

During the Round Table
Г-жа Илина Попова, експерт „Връзки с обществеността", Фондация „Интелдей“, г-жа Мариета Димитрова, правен експерт в Българския център за нестопанско право и г-жа Ваня Славчева, полицейски инспектор, Главна дирекция „Национална полиция“
Г-н Димитър Марков, старши анализатор и директор на проект, Правна програма, Център за изследване на демокрацията и г-жа Мила Манчева, старши анализатор, Социологическа програма, Център за изследване на демокрацията
Г-жа Радостина Павлова, експерт по международни програми и проекти, Фондация „Асоциация Анимус“
Г-жа Нели Ангелова, началник на отдел „СДВНЧ-София’ в дирекция „Миграция” и г-жа Светлана Петрова, началник на сектор „Административно и логистично осигуряване на дом-София в отдел „СДВНЧ-София”

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