Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Not all asylum seekers who apply at national borders are sent directly to a reception centre. When applied, the exception is usually related to cases where family members of the border applicants are already living either in reception centres or outside them, persons who enter with valid documentation, or cases with specific needs such as individuals with disabilities and families with infants.

The main reasons for this situation are the State Agency for National Security (SANS)’s concerns about transferring people to open reception centres before being screened by the security services, as well as the lack of a proper coordination mechanism between the police and the SAR to enable registration and accommodation of asylum seekers after 17:00 or during the weekends. Since September 2015, the SAR operates with shift schemes and on-call duty during the weekends in order to assist the reception of asylum seekers referred by the police. In practice, however, these arrangements are not sufficient, therefore the police have no other options but to refer and detain asylum seekers in the pre-removal detention centres.

Out of a total 3,700 applicants registered in 2017, 2,292 individuals applied for asylum at border and immigration detention facilities.1

Therefore, detention of first-time applicants is systematically applied in Bulgaria and the majority of asylum seekers apply from pre-removal detention centres for irregular migrants.2 In 2017 there has been a significant decrease in the number of detentions ordered:

Immigration detention in Bulgaria: 2015-2017





Total detentions ordered




Out of the total number of persons detained in pre-removal centres in 2017, 2,194 were asylum seekers. A total 30 asylum seekers were in detention at the end of the year, out of a total 284 persons in detention at that time.3

There are two pre-removal detention centres in operation: Busmantsi and Lyubimets. The Elhovo allocation centre ceased its regular operation in 2017.

Asylum seekers can also be placed in closed reception centres i.e. detained under the jurisdiction of the SAR for the purposes of the asylum procedure. In 2017, 13 asylum seekers have been detained in the asylum closed facility, situated in the premises of the 3rd Block in the Busmantsi pre-removal centre, the only closed centre for that purpose. 5 asylum seekers were held there at the end of the year.


  • 1. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Monthly Monitoring Report: December 2017, 10 January 2018.
  • 2. CERD, Concluding observations on the combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic reports to Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22, 31 May 2017, available at:, para 21(e).
  • 3. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2017 Performance Report, 31 January 2018.

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