A delegation from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) carried out earlier this week a visit to Bulgaria to hear first-hand from civil society organisations dealing with the migration and refugee situation on the ground. This visit is part of a total of 12 missions organised by the EESC to 11 EU countries plus Turkey, which started with Austria in December 2015 and will finish with the visit to Turkey in February 2016.
The EESC delegation to Bulgaria included EESC members Evgeniy Ivanov , Veselin Mitov and Bogomil Nikolov. EESC members conducted meetings with representatives from governmental organisations and NGOs, and visited two reception centres in Sofia and Harmanli.
The series of missions is organised by the EESC as part of its going local programme which aims to gain an insight into the work carried out by civil society organisations dealing with migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Eleven visits to Greece, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Malta, Italy and Bulgaria have been taking place between December and January. The EESC delegations involved were tasked with gathering information that will be used to develop potential strategies to cope with the influx of refugees. This information will also help to a establish set of best practices and policies with the goal of creating a seamless reception, relocation or integration process for refugees. During their meetings with NGOs, refugees, regional and national authorities and volunteers, the EESC delegations discussed the challenges faced by the various stakeholders. The meetings focused on identifying problems and specific needs, as well as successes and best practices employed by the various organisations dealing directly with the current refugee crisis.
The EESC Vice President for Communications, Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, who played a key role in establishing the missions programme said, "By going local on the ground and meeting with grassroots organisations, who are working firsthand with refugees and migrants, our members are gaining valuable insight into the real humanitarian situation to help shape European decision-making in this area."
The end goal of these missions is to provide well-founded, documented input that will contribute to EU policy making and be used to follow-up on the Committee's opinion A European Agenda on Migration: Second implementation package. The EESC will compile the findings of these visits and present an overall report to its plenary session in March. The conclusions from the report will also be shared with the other EU institutions and stakeholders.