Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure

Bulgaria

Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 21/04/21

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Out of a total of 2,195 decisions taken on the merits in 2020, 37% resulted in a positive decision.[1] This represents a slight increase compared to 2019 where recognition rates remained at 30%. Subsidiary protection in 2020 also increased to 32% of the cases decided on the substance compared to 15% in 2019. However, the refugee status recognition rate continued to decrease to 8% in 2020 compared to 13% in 2019 and 15% in 2018.

 

 Afghanistan

As of the end of 2016, Afghan nationals are arbitrarily considered as manifestly unfounded applicants. They are predominantly considered and refused in the Accelerated Procedure. Out of the 1,202 asylum seekers whose cases were examined under the accelerated procedure in 2020, 68% (828 asylum seekers) were originating from Afghanistan.

The recognition rate for Afghan asylum seekers remained very low in recent years, reaching only 2.5% in 2016, 1.5% in 2017[2] and 4% in 2019. In the majority of cases protection was granted following court decisions overturning refusals. The “striking discrepancy between the Bulgarian and the EU average recognition rate for Afghans” has been raised by the European Commission,[3] as well as jurisdictions in other Member States, as a matter of concern.[4]

The recognition of Afghan applicants in 2020 decreased back to 1.8% overall; 1% refugee status and 0.8% subsidiary protection, far below the average recognition rate across the EU.

Turkey

Applications for international protection lodged by Turkish nationals are treated as manifestly unfounded as they are considered as originating from a “safe country of origin”, notwithstanding the fact that the Bulgarian asylum system presently does not officially apply any of the safe country concepts. Bulgaria has not adopted a list of “safe countries or origin” since 2001.[5] As a result, the “safe country of origin” concept is not formally listed as a ground for rejection, i.e. as a ground for considering the application as manifestly unfounded, thus hindering an effective access to appeals.

The rejection rate of Turkish asylum seekers reached 100% both in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 just one Turkish national was granted protection in Bulgaria. Moreover, despite settled case-law whereby the lodging of an application for international protection entitles the asylum seeker to apply for an immediate release from detention, many Turkish asylum seekers are kept in immigration detention centers for the duration of their entire asylum procedure, in violation of national law. They are subsequently subject to negative decisions and deported back to Turkey. In such cases, the immigration police makes every effort to prevent Turkish detainees from accessing lawyers and legal advice. Additionally, in 2020 the authorities used the COVID-19 mandatory 14-days quarantine to organise speedy and effective readmissions of the Turkish nationals within this period of time, thus preventing them from meeting a lawyer and obtaining independent advice on their rights and legal avenues. Altogether 28 Turkish nationals were readmitted to Turkey in 2020 within the period of mandatory quarantine without any guarantees to have been informed about the possibility to claim asylum in Bulgaria, or to be in practice assisted to submit an application for international protection, if willing to do so.

This practice has been publicly recognised and acknowledged by the current Prime Minister and[6]  seems to be the result of an informal political agreement between the Bulgarian and Turkish governments.[7] It is a long-standing practice of the Bulgarian authorities to prevent the Turkish nationals from access to procedure and international protection, as well as to expedite their return to the country of origin including, in several cases, in violation of the non-refoulement principle. In return, the Turkish authorities divert to a large extent the migratory pressure from the Bulgarian border to the Greek one. [8]  The latest example in this respect was the March 2020 border crisis in Pazarkule-Kastanies region, when the attempted entries to Bulgaria were close to none against the background of thousands trying to enter Greece.[9]

Iraq

For many years Iraqi applicants enjoyed relatively fair assessments and an overall recognition rate ranging between 40% to 55%[10] with respective refusal rate variations. In 2017, however, their recognition dropped drastically to 21% overall recognition (10.2% refugee status, 10.8% subsidiary protection), 11% (3% refugee status, 9% subsidiary protection) in 2018 and then slightly improving to 18% (4% refugee status, 14% subsidiary protection) in 2019.

The situation in 2020 however again deteriorated by decreasing to an overall recognition rate of 14% (1% refugee status, 13% subsidiary protection). In general, the arguments in the negative decisions of both the SAR and the Courts refer to the defeat of ISIS and to improvements in the safety and security across the country’s conflict areas and war zones. Claims by applicants from Central and Southern Iraq are considered manifestly unfounded in general.

Syria

Between 2014 to mid-2015, the SAR applied the so-called prima facie approach to assessing Syrian applications for protection as “manifestly well-founded”. This approach is no longer applied. Nevertheless, in 2020, Syrians continued to be the nationality with the highest recognition rate, reaching 99% overall – out of which 11% concerned the granting of refugee status and 88% the granting of the subsidiary protection.

Other nationalities

Nationalities from certain countries such as Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria are discriminatorily treated as manifestly unfounded applications with zero recognition rates. To many of these nationalities, the status determination is mostly conducted under an Accelerated Procedure in pre-removal detention facilities, in violation of the law.[11]

 

 

[1]69 inadmissibility and 11 admissibility decisions are not included.

[2] AIDA, ‘Bulgaria: Developments in the treatment of asylum claims from Afghanistan’, 6 August 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2ALvpC3.

[3] European Commission, Measures for improvement of the Bulgarian asylum system, 6 July 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2EudWMH, 7.

[4]  See e.g. (Switzerland) Federal Administrative Court, Decision E-3356/2018, 27 June 2018; (Belgium) Council of Alien Law Litigation, Decision No 185 279, 11 April 2017.

[5] The last national annual lists were adopted with Decision №205/19.04.2000 of the Council of Ministers, in which Turkey was not enlisted as a safe country of origin nor as a third safe country.

[6] Businessinsider, ‘Strasbourg Court Quizzes Bulgaria over Gullenists Extradition’, 25 April 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2S0ZPGU.

[7] Businessinsider, ‘Turkey’s plan to flood Europe with millions of refugees is a real and dangerous threat, officials warn’, 11 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/31szogj.

[8] Offnews, The Turkish Ambassador promised to sustain the migrant pressure towards Bulgaria at a zero level, 3 May 2020, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/397W2Ph.

[9] Mediapool, Борисов при Ердоган докато хиляди имигранти напират към Гърция, 2 March 2020, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3rUUQYj.

[10] 2015: 22% refugee status, 20% subsidiary protection; 2016: 33% refugee status, 10% subsidiary protection.

[11] Article 45b LAR.

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