Bulgaria ranks 43rd out of 52 countries in the new edition of the Migrant Integration Policy Index MIPEX, falling into the group of countries characterized by “equality on paper”.
The MIPEX index is the most reliable and cited index for measuring and comparing integration policies towards migrants, widely used for qualitative and quantitative research. MIPEX 2020 compares 52 countries on five continents – Europe (including all EU countries), Asia (including China, India and Japan), North America (USA, Canada and Mexico), South America (Argentina, Brazil and Chile), Australia and New Zealand. The first edition of the index was published in 2004, and the current edition is the fifth. MIPEX 2020 includes 58 indicators, grouped in 8 policy areas – Labour market mobility; Family reunification; Education; Political participation; Permanent residence; Access to nationality; Anti-discrimination; and Health.
The first places in the MIPEX 2020 index are occupied by Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Canada – with a score between 80 and 86 (out of 100 possible). The results are high in the so-called traditional immigrant countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA (average score 75). The average score of all 52 countries included in the index is 50.
The average score for European Union countries is 49, but the results of the European Union are not homogeneous. In the old EU member states the average score is higher, 58, while in the new Central and Eastern European member states the average score is 41. Bulgaria also has a similar score (40 points) and ranks 43rd (together with Poland). Immediately before Bulgaria are Cyprus, North Macedonia, Turkey, Hungary and Albania. Immediately after Bulgaria are Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia. Bulgaria and most countries from the region are classified in the group “equality on paper”
Assessments of Bulgaria by policy areas:
- Labour market mobility: halfway favourable: General access to the labour market continues to be favourable for long-term residents and open to immigrant entrepreneurs. As of 2018 family members are also equal to Bulgarian citizens, with access to social security and assistance.
- Family reunification: slightly unfavourable: Sponsors can be joined by their spouse or their stable long-term partner since 2013. Only basic legal income and standard housing is required for migrants to reunite with their families. However, authorities can deny or withdraw their legal status through discretionary procedures with wide grounds (e.g. family breakup, economic resources, public security), without considering personal circumstances (e.g. violence, existing links with country of origin).
- Education: slightly unfavourable: The school system creates barriers to access for certain categories of immigrant pupils and largely ignores the specific needs and benefits they bring to the classroom. Immigrants and their children now face no impediments in their access to compulsory education and receive language support at school. Intercultural education at schools is part of state educational standards but remains critically unfavourable because of the lack of targeted measures in practice.
- Health: slightly unfavourable: In Bulgaria, as in most countries, legal migrants and asylum-seekers have basic entitlements to healthcare that may be undermined in practice. Migrants may find it harder to access healthcare entitlements in Bulgaria than in most countries in Europe or the region. Healthcare services are not at all adapted to migrants’ specific health needs.
- Political participation: critically unfavourable: Political participation is still missing from Bulgaria’s integration strategy and remains a challenge for migrants in Bulgaria. Non-EU residents do not have the local right to vote or stand in elections, excluding them from the democratic process. Consultative bodies to inform and improve the policies that affect migrants daily are not yet part of integration governance at local and national levels in Bulgaria.
- Permanent residence: slightly favourable: Non-EU residents must wait 5 years before they can apply for equal opportunities to integrate in the economic and social life of most EU countries. Applicants and long-term residents in Bulgaria are uncertain about their futures as, like in other Central European countries, authorities retain wide discretion.
- Access to nationality: unfavourable: Most non-EU residents in Bulgaria are ineligible for citizenship, under some of Europe’s most restrictive eligibility criteria. Applicants must also pass demanding income/job requirements compared to other countries.
- Anti-discrimination: favourable: The 2004 Protection Against Discrimination Act created favourable definitions protecting residents from all discrimination. Victims can also look for support from one of the strongest equality bodies in Europe: the Protection Against Discrimination Commission.
Explore the full MIPEX 2020 index at: www.mipex.eu
The fifth edition of MIPEX is prepared by Migration Policy Group (MPG) and CIDOB with support from the European Union and the Center for Global Development. Open Society Institute – Sofia is a national partner for Bulgaria.