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On December 15, the annual Awards for Responsible Employers of Refugees and Migrants took place at SofiaLab, the capital’s youth innovation laboratory. Partners in the event were Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Caritas Sofia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and “Za Dobroto” Foundation.

The awards brought together representatives of business, the non-governmental sector and institutions for an evening of appreciation for employers with a contribution to the integration, employment and support of refugees and migrants. The host of the event was Sevdalina Voinova, program director of Sofia Development Association. Svetlana Lomeva, executive director of the organization, presented the first two prizes on behalf of Georgi Georgiev, chairperson of Sofia Muniipal Council – to Henkel Bulgaria and Overgas. The two companies were honored for significant donations to the integration of refugees.

“In these difficult times it is important to help, we are happy about the partnership with NGOs and the opportunity to work with them,” said Desislava Ilieva from Henkel, and Vladislava Shalamanova from Overgas added: “This award gives us confidence and energy to work together, then things work out.”

Iva Partsaleva, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, presented prizes to two other deserving companies – Terrastone and Lidl Bulgaria for their active work with refugees, including the hiring and training of many migrants, as well as providing assistance for their accommodation in Bulgaria. “Thank you for the award, thank you for the partnership with the non-governmental organizations that support responsible employers. We want to integrate refugees and from the beginning we offer training, housing support, all the way in their work. We remain open to cooperation in the future as well,” said Raya Tsvetkova from Lidl Bulgaria.

Tsvetomir Dumanov, director of Caritas Sofia, had the pleasant task of presenting prizes to three companies – Samex, Fransizkup and Sament Engineering. The companies were recognized for their ongoing commitment to working with refugees and migrants, their talent development programs and their first job opportunities for unaccompanied youth. “We are very happy with the cooperation we have established. We expect to build on this partnership next year, we learn from all of you,” said Svetoslav Stoychev, regional manager of the company that operates KFC and NORDSEE restaurants in Bulgaria.

Maria Mihailova from “Za Dobroto” Foundation also presented three prizes for deserving employers – the awards went to Bulgarian Burger, “Berezka” and ABC Pharma for their continued efforts to provide decent pay and a good environment to third-country nationals with refugee status and migrants. In the words of Natalia Mantya from “Berezka”, “We would like everyone in our team to feel good together, to understand each other.”

The awards also marked the beginning of a comprehensive network of private companies, institutions, and non-governmental organizations whose main goal will be the integration and support of refugees and migrants through the country’s labor market.

The awards are also part of the activities of the Bureau of Information and Services for Foreign Citizens, which was established and has been operating since October last year with the joint efforts of the Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Bulgarian Red Cross, with the support of Pazari Vazrazhdane and UNHCR, co-financed by the EU through the AMIF.