Greece, Bulgaria An informal protocol of collaboration considered by Bulgarian and Greek authorities

Project : MARIO 26 Mar 2012 exploitation reintegration return roma transnational

2905_gr-bul_event1_smallMarch 23rd, Sofia, Bulgaria: In the framework of the project Mario Bulgarian and Greek child protection authorities, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors as well as NGOs have held a meeting for the second time, following an initial event in September 20-21, Greece, Thessaloniki.

The aim of the meetings was to find concrete and achievable solutions that would lead to a significant improvement in the lives of the children that decided, alone or accompanied, by their families or not, to migrate to Greece. In spite of the high number of presentations, the participants found time for open discussions, debates and information exchange. The participants were eager to find concrete solutions to achieve a better collaboration in the protection of Bulgarian migrant children in Greece.

The meeting begun with the opening speech of Mr. Kalin Kamenov, Deputy Executive Chairperson of the State Agency for Child Protection followed by Mr Georgios Zafiris, Head of Consulate Office, Greek Embassy in Sofia. They both emphasized the importance of the collaboration between the two countries, and also urged the participants to take measures for the well-being and security of the Bulgarian children in street situation in Greece. The continuously growing number of children trafficked to Greece, and being at risk of exploitation commands both governments to find a better way of information exchange and cooperation system.

The preliminary objectives included the possibility of considering the signature of a bilateral agreement, but the presentations and discussions suggested that both the political limitations and the current level of discussion may make it premature. The participants of both countries had a common understanding of the problems that occur in the current transnational information exchange process. Both countries’ authorities reported that more information exchange should be implemented. In order to represent the best interests of the child, both authorities need more precise data on each case. The problem seems to stem from the fact that both countries’ authorities do not have a clear understanding and practice as far as information exchange is concerned (from collection of information to its very use). Furthermore, both countries’ authorities recognise not possessing a clear idea of which authority should be contacted when a case is identified or returned.

2906_gr-bul_event2_smallGreek authorities stated that there is a need to harmonize their legislation as well as practices and adapt them to the bi-lateral cooperation that is needed. Authorities from Greece and Bulgaria stated that it may not be possible or even desired to have an official bilateral agreement signed in the short term. However, a consensus exists on the need to have a streamlined process of information exchange, which would be more operational. In order to achieve this, an informal protocol of collaboration, that would offer concrete and operational guidance to both authorities to better exchange information and handle individual cases of Bulgarian children identified in Greece and potentially returned – when that is in their best interests – could be created.

As a result of the meeting a crucial step will be taken to improve the future cooperation between both countries: the formulation of a clear operational guidance to improve the transnational management of Bulgarian children cases. The project Mario partners together with ARSIS in Greece and the Alliance for Children and Youth in Bulgaria have proposed to form two working groups, each coordinated by their national organisation at national level. The task will be to identify the problem that they face nationally and identify the responsible authority that is in charge of solving that problem.

The meeting ended with these proposals and both countries are committed to continue their work, and implement concrete solutions in order to ensure that the best interests of Bulgarian children are at the center of all decisions that are taken on their behalf. (RS)

Comments

  • Soran 2012-03-29 10:08

    Finally the authorities are decided to work together accross their borders to help the children!?!
    Important step for sure, but not too late?

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