Access to NGOs and UNHCR

Bulgaria

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

NGOs, lawyers and UNHCR staff have unhindered access to all border and inland detention centres and try to provide as much information as possible related to detention grounds and conditions.1 Despite that, the subject of detention remains hard to explain as an extremely high percentage of asylum seekers claim that they do not understand the reasons why they are kept in detention.2

Following the amendments of 2015, the LAR now provides that where there are indications that the individuals in detention facilities or at border crossing points may wish to make an asylum application the government shall provide them with information on the possibility to do so.3 The information should at least include how one can apply for asylum and procedures to be followed, including in immigration detention centres and interpreted in the respective language to assist asylum seekers’ access to procedure. This obligation is not fulfilled in practice as none of the SAR staff is visiting or consulting potential asylum seekers who are apprehended at the border or in immigration detention centres, where the provision of information depends entirely on legal aid NGOs’ efforts and activity.

In those detention facilities and crossing points, Bulgaria is now also legally bound to make arrangements for interpretation to the extent necessary to facilitate individual access to the asylum procedure. Such interpretation, however, is not secured and the only services in this respect are provided by BHC under UNHCR funding. Although the recast Asylum Procedures Directive provision, allowing organisations and persons providing advice and counselling to asylum applicants to have effective access to applicants present at border crossing points, including transit zones at external borders, is transposed in the national law,4 in practice there are no other NGOs besides BHC which provide legal assistance in these areas.

  • 1. For more information, see General Directorate Border Police, UNHCR and BHC, 2015 Annual Border Monitoring Report: Access to territory and international protection, July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2jsyglh, para 1.1.3.
  • 2. This has been a systematic concern. See JRS Europe, Becoming Vulnerable in Detention (Detention of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers - DEVAS Project), 2010, National Chapter on Bulgaria, 147 - points. 3.1 and 3.2.
  • 3. Article 58(6) LAR; Art.8 (1) recast Asylum Procedures Directive.
  • 4. Article 8(2) recast Asylum Procedures Directive and Article 23(3) LAR.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti