The updated AIDA Country Report on Bulgaria provides the latest developments and persisting gaps in the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention and content of protection in Bulgaria.
Shortcomings in the Bulgarian asylum system have led to a European Commission letter of formal notice on 8 November 2018 for non-compliance with EU law, raising concerns related to: accommodation and legal representation of unaccompanied children; correct identification and support of vulnerable asylum seekers; provision of adequate legal assistance; and detention of asylum seekers, as well as safeguards in detention procedures
Asylum procedure: Push backs, violence, robbery and humiliating practices continue to be widespread along the border with Turkey. Low new arrivals figures in Bulgaria in the first half of 2018 and the triple increase in the second half indicate unofficial, though effective, cross-border cooperation between Bulgarian and Turkish governments to fully prevent the access through this external EU border, at least for the duration of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council.
Nationalities from countries such as Turkey, Ukraine, China and Algeria are treated as manifestly unfounded, with 0% recognition rates. The recognition rate of Afghan asylum seekers improved from 1.5% in 2017 to 24% overall in 2018, but still only as a result of litigation before domestic courts, and still far below the average EU rates. Recognition of Iraqi applicants continued to be very low with 12% overall recognition – 3% refugee status and 9% subsidiary protection.
Reception conditions: On 17 December 2018, Vrazhdebna shelter was closed for an indefinite period of time and residents were transferred to other reception centres., as the State Agency for Refugees stated to have been unable to accomplish tendering and selection procedures for shelters’ security services. Vrazhdebna for long remained the only national asylum reception facility with decent living conditions and had just recently been fully renovated with EU funding.
Detention of asylum seekers: While delays the release and registration of asylum seekers applying while in pre-removal detention centres were largely overcome, by registrations made within 9 days, the State Agency for Refugees continued to conduct asylum procedures in pre-removal centres, in violation of the law. In contrast to previous years, in 2018 this practice affected “deportable” applicants in possession of valid national documents, while courts continued to find the violation insignificant for not severely damaging asylum seekers’ rights.
Content of international protection: No integration activities are planned, funded or available to the general population of recognised refugees or subsidiary protection holders. Altogether 13 persons benefitted an integration support, but all of them were relocated with funding provided under the EU relocation scheme, not by the general national integration mechanism. The national “zero integration” situation in Bulgaria thus now continues over 5 consecutive years.
This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE*