From 13 to 17 November 2017, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees (SRSG), Ambassador Tomáš Boček, is conducting a fact-finding mission to Bulgaria. Visits are planned to various reception centres for migrants and refugees around Sofia as well as in the south-central part of the country close to the border with Turkey. He will have meetings with Bulgarian government officials, the Ombudsman, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the State Agency for Refugees and the State Agency for Child Protection. In addition, he will meet with relevant international organisations and NGOs. The aim of Ambassador Boček’s fact-finding mission is to gather information on the situation of migrants and refugees and to elaborate proposals for concrete Council of Europe action on how to assist Bulgaria in this connection. Following his visit to Bulgaria, the SRSG will publish a report setting out his conclusions and recommendations.
On 6 November 2017 in Strasbourg, the Special Representative presented a Discussion paper on religion and migration prepared by his Office at the 2017 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. The theme of the exchange was: “Migrants and refugees: challenges and opportunities – The response of religious and non-religious groups”. In his speech, he emphasised that religion and migration are linked in many ways, and that integration and migration policies should reflect these connections. The objective of the exchange was to provide a platform for dialogue between public authorities, religious communities, organisations representing non-religious beliefs and broader civil society on topics of particular importance to the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. The exchange was organised by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.On 7 November 2017 in Brussels, the Special Representative presented the Council of Europe´s work on alternatives to deprivation of liberty of children affected by migration at the 11th European Forum on the rights of the child. In his speech, he pointed out that reducing detention and encouraging alternatives are at the heart of Council of Europe Action Plan on protecting migrant children and that “it is easier to build a strong future today than try to repair a broken one tomorrow”. He concluded by referring to his closing remarks from the Prague conference, on the way forward to end immigration detention of children.