As of 19 March 2013, detained migrants have the right to legal aid.1 Notwithstanding the amendments, legal aid is not yet provided to detainees due to National Legal Aid Bureau (NLAB)'s budget constraints (for more information see the section on Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance).
In addition, since 1 July 2015, there is no state-- funded legal aid for the first instance of status determination for any asylum applicant and, whilst legal aid is provided for appeals under the budget, access to the courts to lodge such an appeal turns heavily on the provision of legal assistance and representation during the eligibility interview and upon receipt of a negative first decision. This reflects most negatively on asylum seekers who have been detained in closed reception facilities. Consequently, effective access to legal assistance during the procedure for these applicants is completely negated.2
For example, after the November 2016 events in Harmanli reception centre (see section on Grounds for Detention) followed the detention in closed reception facilities of approximately 400 asylum seekers. None of them was provided access to legal aid and had to rely entirely on the UNHCR / NGO services. In light of the consistent failings identified in status determination proceedings, such curtailment of procedural rights is particularly dramatic for those nationalities detained, given the extremely low recognition rates for these individuals in principle.
There is also a lack of state-funded legal assistance for children detained in closed facilities to challenge the detention order despite the general child protection legislation which envisaging the right of all children to such an assistance.3 As the immigration law does not envisage the appointment of guardians to unaccompanied or separated children, and since according to Bulgarian law children can only undertake legal actions through or with the consent of their guardians, they cannot challenge their detention order unless provided tailored legal support to submit appeal without it.