Legal representation of unaccompanied children


Country Report: Legal representation of unaccompanied children Last updated: 23/02/22


Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

The 2015 reform mandated the local municipalities to act as legal representatives of unaccompanied children.[1] Highly criticised when adopted, this approach of the law proved to be more inadequate than previous arrangements. The municipalities lacked not only qualified staff, but also basic experience and expertise in child protection. In addition to that, the number of legal representatives appointed – one or two per reception facility – was insufficient to meet the need of the population of unaccompanied children who, remained considerable in number.

At the end of 2020, amendments to the law introduced a major change in the legal representation of unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children.[2]  The obligation to represent these children not only in the procedure, but also after the recognition and before all agencies and institutions with regard to their rights and entitlements, was shifted from the municipalities to the National Legal Aid Bureau. It includes requirements related to the qualification of the appointed legal aid lawyers and representation implemented in the child’s best interest.[3]The aimed to address the absence of guardians, and ensure proper legal representation and care for the best interests of unaccompanied children in asylum procedures, which resulted in high rates of absconding and related protection and safety risks.

The selection of these lawyers was carried out in June 2021. However, the national monitoring established that in many individual cases the SAR significantly delayed the notification to the National Legal Aid Bureau of the necessity to appoint a representative, reaching a period longer than 1 month in certain cases.[4]  As a result these unaccompanied children had no access to credible information about the asylum procedure and their rights, and especially the right to be legally transferred under the Dublin III Regulation to other EU countries in order to reunite with their family members.

The number of unaccompanied child applicants rose to 3,127 unaccompanied children in 2021, compared to 799 in 2020, 524 in 2019, 481 in 2018, 440 in 2017 and 2,772 in 2016:

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children: 2021
Country of origin Number
Afghanistan 2,603
Syria 463
Iraq 39
Pakistan 38
Morocco 14
Bangladesh 4
Stateless 4
Vietnam 2
Libya 2
Iran 1
Egypt 1
Algeria 1
Total 3,127

Source: SAR.

Nearly half of all unaccompanied children abandoned their asylum procedure and continued irregularly to the countries of their final destination.[5]



[1]  Former Article 25(1) LAR.

[2] National Parliament, Amendments on the Law on Asylum and Refugees (LAR), State Gazette No.89 from 16 October 2020, available at:

[3] Article 25 LAR.

[4] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2021 Annual RSD Monitoring Report, available in English at:

[5] In 2021, a total of 1,550 unaccompanied children terminated their procedures, i.e. 49% of all children.

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