From a refugee to a social worker in support of refugee children

29-06-2023 13:32

"Bulgaria is my home now," confesses Ali Panahi, who 8 years ago took our country as a place to continue his journey to Western Europe. He left Afghanistan after threats on his life and attacks by the Taliban because he had been working for an international construction company. He fell for a short period of time into the Place for Detention in Lyubimets. Then to the Registration and Reception Center of the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers in Voenna Rampa, Sofia. After two and a half years, he got his status and started working... in the same place, as a social worker in the safety zone where unaccompanied minors are placed. He accepted his work as a contribution to the community. "These children have the same needs as any others, so we try to give them everything their parents would do." Helping them learn basic English, computer skills, playing guitar. The important things they need to learn, he says, are three - to speak the language of the country they live in; to keep hygiene and to have fun. Spending a good time together raises their emotional state and helps to overcome the traumas that each of them carries. That is why they often play football, basketball, volleyball. During one football match Ali suffered a serious leg injury which prevented him from working for two months, however he smiles as he tells the story "it was a lot of fun, I made 9 goals but it was also very painful". At the moment in Voenna rampa has about 80 children under the age of 18. Ali says most of them do not stay much, they are looking for a way to continue their journey to the Western Europe. Those who have relatives in other European countries are staying longer and waiting for the procedure to reunite with their families.

Ali Panahi is part of the team of the International Organization for Migration in Bulgaria, which in 2019 and 2020 established two safety zones in RCC Sofia - Voenna Rampa and Ovcha Kupel for unaccompanied minors. It provides a secure environment and care adapted to their needs, as well as specialists to work with them. The current activities are funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism under the project "Support for unaccompanied minors, seeking international protection".