Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure

Bulgaria

Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

Out of a total of 1,615 decisions taken on the merits in 2019, 30% resulted in a positive decision.[1] This represents a slight decrease compared to 2018 where recognition rates remained at 35%. Subsidiary protection in 2019 also decreased to 19% of the cases decided on the substance compared to 20% in 2018. Similarly the refugee status recognition rate decreased to 11% compared to 15% in 2019.

 

Afghanistan

 

As of the end of 2016, Afghan nationals started to be arbitrarily considered as manifestly unfounded cases. They were issued negative decisions in the regular procedure, except for cases where they were – unlawfully – determined in pre-removal detention centres where the accelerated procedure is the only one applied. Out of the 828 asylum seekers whose cases were examined under the accelerated procedure in 2019, 566 were originating from Afghanistan.

The recognition rate for Afghan asylum seekers remained very low in recent years, reaching only 2.5% in 2016 and 1.5% in 2017.[2] Similarly to 208, the recognition rate stagnated at 6% 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 2019 remained at 6% overall; 2% refugee status and 4% subsidiary protection, although still far below the 46% average recognition rate across the EU.[5]

 

Iraq

 

For many years Iraqi applicants enjoyed relatively fair assessments and an overall recognition rate ranging between 40% to 55%,[6] with respective refusal rate variations. In 2017, however, their recognition dropped drastically to 21% overall recognition (10.2% refugee status, 10.8% subsidiary protection), and then to 11% (3% refugee status, 9% subsidiary protection) in 2018.

The situation slightly improved in 2019 by increasing to an overall recognition rate of 18% (4% refugee status, 14% subsidiary protection), which remains low however. 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 2019, Syrians continued to be the nationality with the highest overall recognition rate, reaching 97% – out of which 41% concerned the granting of refugee status and 56% the granting of the subsidiary protection.

 

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.[7] 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. 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.

This practice has been publicly recognised and acknowledged by the current Prime Minister and[8]  seems to be the result of an informal political agreement between the Bulgarian and Turkish governments.[9]

 

Other nationalities

 

Nationalities from certain countries such as Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, China, Morocco 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.[10]

 


[1] 79 inadmissibility and 24 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] Eurostat, ‘EU Member States granted protection to more than half a million asylum seekers in 2017’, 67/2018, 19 April 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2PJ1ZXN.

[6] 2015: 22% refugee status, 20% subsidiary protection; 2016: 33% refugee status, 10% subsidiary protection.

[7] 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.

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

[9] 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.

[10]  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