Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority

Bulgaria

Country Report: Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

Name in English

Number of staff

Ministry responsible

Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the first instance authority?

State Agency for Refugees (SAR)

402

Council of Ministers

 Yes

 
 

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”).[1]

In case of mass influx 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.[2] 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 in order to protect internationally recognised rights or freedoms.[3]

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[4] and in the accelerated procedure.[5]

In 2018, the total budget of the SAR amounted to approximately € 4,3 million, out of which €3.7 million was allocated to the staff costs.[6] Most of the staff is permanent staff. As regards the profile of caseworkers as of June 2019, 47% were women and 53% were men and a majority of them had more than 3 years of experience.[7]

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. These guidelines are not made public but, if requested, they are usually shared with UNHCR and/or NGOs providing legal assistance.[8]

In terms of quality assurance and control, UNHCR is authorised 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: registration, interviews, first instance decisions, and appeal hearings in court.

As regards 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.

The SAR has further established a Quality of Procedure Directorate which controls the quality of the procedure through regular and random sampling of decisions. On the basis of its findings, the Quality of Procedure Department issues guidance on the interpretation of legal provisions and the improvement of different stages of the procedure.



[1] Article 2(3) LAR.

[2] Article 2(2) LAR.

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

[4] Chapter VI, Section 1а LAR.

[5] Article 79 LAR.

[6] ECRE, Asylum authorities: an overview of internal structures and available resources, October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2NV7yUB, 27-28.

[7] Out of the total 34 caseworkers in June 2019, 22 have between 5 years and 10 years of experience; see: ECRE, Asylum authorities: an overview of internal structures and available resources, October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2NV7yUB, 39-40.

[8] Ibid. 48.

 

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