Access to the territory and push backs


Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 30/11/20


Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

No institutional or practical arrangements or measures exist to ensure a differentiated approach to border control that gives access to the territory and protection for those who flee from war or persecution.


Push backs at land borders


Access of asylum seekers to the territory remained severely constrained in 2019. The Ministry of Interior reported that it had apprehended a total of 2,495 third-country nationals, out of which 2,184 were new arrivals:

Irregular migrants apprehended in Bulgaria: 2016-2019






Irregular entry





Irregular exit





Irregular stay on the territory





Total apprehensions





Source: Ministry of Interior, Migration Statistics, December 2016:; December 2017:; December 2018:; December 2019:


This represents a 23% decrease in comparison with the previous year, which indicates similar levels of migration pressure and prevention.[1] This decrease, however, as well as the generally low levels of registered new arrivals, cannot be attributed to usual border control measures, nor to the preventive qualities of the wall along the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Asylum seekers and government officials have both admitted that the border fence can easily be crossed,[2] e.g. by using blankets, ladders or by passing through damaged sections of the fence, which is a persisting and frequently reported problem.[3]

Since 1 January 2017, the Ministry of Interior no longer discloses the number of prevented entries in its publicly available statistics. Thus, in 2019, only 309 asylum seekers were able to apply for international protection at the national entry borders and only 2% of them (i.e. 12 individuals) had access to the asylum procedure. The remaining 98% who were able to apply at еntry borders were sent to the Ministry of Interior’s pre-removal centres.


Border monitoring


Under the 2010 tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between the Border Police, UNHCR and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee,[4] with funding provided by UNHCR, all three parties have access to any national border or detention facility at land and air borders, including airport transit zones, without limitations on the number of monitoring visits. Access to these facilities is granted without prior permission or conditions on time, frequency or circumstances of the persons detained.

In 2019, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee carried out 580 border monitoring visits at border with Greece and Turkey, as well as at Sofia Airport transit hall. During these visits, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee can also obtain information from police records when needed to cross-check individual statements, but has access only to border detention facilities, not to border-crossing points per se.

[1] During 2018, 3,132 irregular third-country nationals were apprehended, out of which 2,851 were new arrivals.

[2] Дневник, ‘Каракачанов призна, че мигранти преминават оградата с Турция чрез стълби’, 20 October2017, available in Bulgarian at:; BBC, ‘Bulgaria on the Edge’, 2 August 2017, available at:

[3] Mediapool, ‘Великата българска стена“ отново не успя да устои на лошото време’, 6 December 2018, available in Bulgarian at:; Elena Yoncheva, ‘Граница’, 14 November 2017, available at:

[4] The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee had an agreement with the Border Police from 2004 to 2010.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation