Special procedural guarantees

Bulgaria

Country Report: Special procedural guarantees Last updated: 23/02/22

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Although in 2021 a needs assessment was carried out in 41% of the cases of applicants established as vulnerable or having specific needs, it appears that the assessment was not necessarily included to the applicants files in the majority of the cases (91%) and was thus not taken into consideration by caseworkers in their decision-making process. [1]

The law excludes the application of the Accelerated Procedure to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, but not to torture victims.[2]

Despite the 2015 reform of the law which stripped the statutory social workers of the child protection services from the responsibility to represent unaccompanied children in asylum procedures (see Legal Representation of Unaccompanied Children), their obligation to provide a social report with an opinion on the best interests of the child concerned in every individual case remains nonetheless under the provisions of general child care legislation.[3] In all of the cases monitored in 2021, these reports were produced but in their vast majority not included to the files nor shared with the SAR’s caseworkers for further consideration.[4]

At the end of 2017, the National Legal Aid Bureau, which is the national body assigned to provide state sponsored legal aid, received funding under the AMIF national programme to commence for the first time ever in Bulgaria the provision of legal aid to asylum seekers during the administrative phase of the asylum procedure.[5] Legal aid under this 80,000 € pilot project was implemented until 31 January 2021 and was limited to the vulnerable applicants for international protection.[6] The project was extended until 31 July 2021 (see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance).

After the end of the project, the National Legal Aid Bureau agreed to continue representing vulnerable applicants under its general rules, which would require the asylum seekers to fill in and submit complicated legal aid applications. The non-governmental organisation Bulgarian Helsinki Committee funded by UNHCR assisted the NLAB with the adaptation and translation of the legal aid forms in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Kurdish and Turkish languages in order to enable the access to legal aid of vulnerable applicants. A problem persists, however, for those who are illiterate and where the assistance of case workers is the only way to get access to legal aid. Yet, some of them are reluctant to grant access to legal aid as it would mean that their role in and quality of the procedure would be assessed In 2021, beyond unaccompanied children, legal aid was provided to less than 50 asylum seekers at first instance, which represents a significant decrease in comparison with 818 vulnerable applicants provided legal aid in 2020.[7] Other asylum seekers, i.e. who are not considered as vulnerable, did not enjoy access to legal aid at the first instance of the asylum procedure.

 

 

[1]   Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2021 Annual RSD Monitoring Report, 31 January 2022.

[2] Article 71(1) LAR.

[3]  Article 15(4) and (6) Law on Child Protection.

[4]  Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2021 Annual RSD Monitoring Report, 31 January 2022.

[5]National Legal Aid Bureau, ‘Обява за конкурс за адвокати за работа по проект’, 29 January 2018, available in Bulgarian at: http://bit.ly/2DP376C.

[6] Ibid.

[7] SAR, Exh. No. РД05-26/14.01.2022.

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