Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority


Country Report: Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority Last updated: 10/07/24


Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website
Name in English Number of staff as of 31 December 2023 Ministry responsible Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the determining authority?
State Agency for Refugees (SAR) 401[1] Council of Ministers  Yes

Source: SAR.

The SAR is competent for examining and deciding on applications for international protection. It is thus the authority competent for granting or not the two existing types of international protection; namely the refugee status or the subsidiary protection (“humanitarian status”).[2] The SAR has different Units composed of caseworkers dealing with specific procedures, such as the Dublin Unit handling Dublin procedures, and specialised caseworkers dealing with accelerated procedures.

In case of mass arrivals where individual asylum applications cannot be processed, a temporary protection status is granted by the government following a collective decision made by the EU Council.[3] The SAR has an advisory role to the government in this respect when it decides whether to communicate to the EU Council a request for temporary protection decisions to be taken on a group basis in cases of a mass influx of asylum seekers who flee from a war-like situation, gross abuse of human rights or indiscriminate violence. These forms of individual or collective protection can be applied without prejudice to the authority of the Bulgarian President to grant asylum to any foreigner based on the national constitution if he or she is persecuted for convictions or activities undertaken to protect internationally recognised rights or freedoms.[4]

Moreover, the chairperson of the SAR who is responsible for taking the first instance decision on the asylum claim is also in charge of the appointment of the SAR officials responsible for taking decisions in the Dublin procedure[5] and in the accelerated procedure.[6]

Internal guidelines provide an extensive description of each procedural step and activity to be undertaken by all SAR staff involved in processing applications for international protection (e.g. registrars, social workers, caseworkers, officials of the legal department etc.) They do not regulate, however, how to conduct interviews, instead they refer to EASO interviewing guidelines.[7] For the first time in 2023, the SAR Internal guidelines were published and made available to third parties.[8]

Regarding the decision-making process, the SAR has an ex-ante review mechanism in place whereby the caseworker, the head of the respective reception centre and the legal department of the SAR must agree on a draft decision that is then transferred to the SAR’s chairperson for the final decision. In the upcoming amendment of the national asylum law,[9] the SAR included the proposal to establish a legal department responsible for the revision of draft decisions, as a response to the previous UNHCR and NGO critique about the quality of the eligibility decisions.[10]

In terms of quality assurance and control, UNHCR is authorized by law to monitor every stage of the asylum procedure. The Agency’s implementing partner, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, also exercises this right on behalf of UNHCR. The quality monitoring activities carried out by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee on behalf of UNHCR involve evaluation of the following stages of the procedure: eligibility interviews, first instance decisions, and appeal hearings in court.

The SAR has further established a Quality of Procedure Directorate which controls the quality of the procedure through regular and random sampling of decisions. Based on its findings, the Quality of Procedure Department issues guidance on the interpretation of legal provisions and the improvement of different stages of the procedure. The issued guidance remains internal and not shared nor made public.

In September 2022, four years after the end of the previous operating plan, the EUAA and Bulgaria signed a new operating plan with the aims of strengthening the authorities’ capacity to implement the TPD and providing special training to national personnel for the effective implementation of the TPD and the rules of the Common European Asylum System.[11] In order to adapt to the persisting pressure on the Bulgarian asylum and reception systems, the operational plan was amended in December 2022.[12] In the July 2023, the EUAA and Bulgaria agreed on a new operational plan covering the period 2023-2024.[13]

In 2023, the EUAA deployed 11 experts to Bulgaria:[14] 6 external experts, 2 EUAA staff members, 2 Member State experts and 1 temporary agency worker. They were deployed as 2 roving teams, 2 junior asylum and/or reception operation experts, 2 junior Dublin Regulation experts, and other asylum and reception experts.[15] As of 19 December 2023, there were still 7 EUAA experts deployed in Bulgaria, as 2 junior asylum and/or reception operations experts, 2 junior Dublin Regulation Expert, 1 roving team, 1 asylum information provision expert and 1 reception vulnerability expert.[16]




[1] SAR, reg. №05-72 from 26 January 2024.

[2] Article 2(3) LAR.

[3] Article 2(2) LAR.

[4] Article 27(1) in conjunction with Article 98(10) Bulgarian Constitution.

[5] Chapter VI, Section Iа LAR.

[6] Article 70 LAR.

[7] Article 47 (4) SAR Internal Guidelines.

[8] State Agency for Refugees, available in Bulgarian at:

[9] Law on Asylum and Refugees draft amendments, published for public consultations on 5 January 2024, available in Bulgarian at:

[10] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at:

[11] EUAA, ‘EUAA deploys to Bulgaria as over 530,000 Ukrainians enter the country’, 6 September 2022, available at:

[12] EUAA, Operational Plan 2022-2023 agreed with the European Union Agency for Asylum and Bulgaria, December 2022, available at:

[13] EUAA, Operational Plan 2022-2023 agreed with the European Union Agency for Asylum and Bulgaria, July 2023, available at:

[14] EUAA personnel numbers do not include deployed interpreters by the EUAA in support of asylum and reception activities.

[15] Information provided by the EUAA, 26 February 2024.

[16] Information provided by the EUAA, 26 February 2024. 

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